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Theme park fined £1m for safety failings over girl’s death on water rapids ride

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Drayton Manor theme park’s operators have been fined £1 million over safety failings which led to the “utterly tragic” death of an 11-year-old girl on a water rapids ride.

Evha Jannath was “propelled” from a vessel on the Splash Canyon ride at Drayton Manor in Staffordshire during an end-of-year school trip with friends from Jameah Girls Academy in Leicester on May 9 2017.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which brought a prosecution against the park for not properly ensuring the safety of guests, said the accident “should never have happened”, adding Drayton Manor’s operators “failed to take the action that could have prevented Evha’s death”.

Drayton Manor had admitted breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

A police vehicle at Drayton Manor Theme Park / PA Media

Sentencing Drayton Manor Theme Parks Ltd at Stafford Crown Court on Thursday, Mr Justice Spencer said: “This was an utterly tragic waste of a young life.”

But the judge said there was “no prospect of the fine being paid” as the company operating the park at the time had since gone into administration, after years of losses brought to a head by the site’s shutdown during the pandemic.

The firm’s assets – including the park – were sold under a “pre-pack sale”, the court heard, and were under new ownership, with the attraction set to welcome visitors from April 12, according to its website.

Splash Canyon has never reopened since Evha’s death, and will not without the HSE’s agreement.

The failure here was no-one identified the seriousness of the risk

The judge said of the park’s operator: “There was a failure to make appropriate changes following prior incidents of passengers falling into the water of the trough. This posed a significant risk of drowning.

“The failure here was no-one identified the seriousness of the risk.”

The judge added safety breaches had gone on “over a long period of time”, adding: “The individual members of staff were not to blame, it was the system that was at fault.”

Evha was thrown from the raft while standing up, as it hit a wooden deflector panel on the water course’s final bend.

CCTV showed she was above water for a minute and half, before falling from a lift conveyor carrying vessels out of the rapids.

Drayton Manor Theme Park incident / PA Media

She drowned in about 12ft of water, also suffering significant blunt force injuries.

Evha was not spotted by ride staff and the alarm was only raised because a member of the public saw her fall in.

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