Indoor ski centre law change bid gathers pace after boy’s ‘avoidable’ death

Louis Watkiss, 12, died after a collision on the slopes of the SnowDome in Tamworth in September 2021.

Richard Vernalls
Thursday 20 January 2022 15:37
Louis Watkiss (Family/PA)
Louis Watkiss (Family/PA)

Parents campaigning for a change in the law after the death of their 12-year-old son at an indoor ski centre have had their case raised before Government ministers.

Louis Watkiss, of Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands died after being seriously injured at the SnowDome in Tamworth on September 24 last year.

He was tobogganing at a friend’s birthday party when he was involved in a collision on the slope which left him with a serious head injury.

His death was not only tragic, but wholly avoidable

Andrew Mitchell MP

An investigation involving the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is under way into the precise circumstances of what happened.

However, Louis’s parents said an initial post-mortem report provided to the coroner, who is also looking into the youngster’s death, revealed there was “little doubt a helmet would have saved his life” had he been wearing one.

Although some indoor snow sports venues have made it mandatory for participants to wear helmets, the current system is voluntary and there is no guidance or legislation in place for operators.

Louis’s parents, Chris and Natalie Watkiss, contacted their MP Andrew Mitchell after discovering there were no rules making the wearing of helmets for children obligatory.

Mr Mitchell, who represents Sutton Coldfield, has now written to Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries asking her to look into options aimed at preventing a repeat of Louis’s “wholly avoidable” death.

These options include a change in the law, either through fresh legislation or an amendment to an existing Bill making its way through Parliament. 

Mr Watkiss, speaking to BBC Radio WM on Thursday, recalled being told by a coroner’s officer how his son’s post-mortem examination found it was “almost certain that a helmet would have saved his life – no two ways about it – so that was a very bitter pill to swallow”.

He added the case for a change in the law “seems like a very sensible thing to do”.

We are continuing to robustly investigate the circumstances

Staffordshire Police

Raising the issue in a debate in the House of Commons on December 16 last year, Mr Mitchell told fellow MPs: “There is little doubt that a helmet would have saved Louis’s life.

“His death was not only tragic, but wholly avoidable.”

Writing to Ms Dorries on January 11, Mr Mitchell said the “distressing case” was worthy of the minister’s attention, and asked her what “view the Government might take” on backing a change to legislation.

The letter said: “I believe that, in the wake of this tragedy, there may be a case for a change in the law to mandate the wearing of helmets for children at indoor ski venues.”

Mr Mitchell added there were alternatives to legislating, including the introduction across the indoor snow sports industry of a voluntary code of practice, ensuring children must wear helmets.

He said the SnowDome had already made such a move.

A Staffordshire Police spokeswoman said: “We are continuing to robustly investigate the circumstances with support from the Health and Safety Executive.”

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