Water sports company admits fault for young Putney girl's banana boat death

Wandsworth Guardian: Mari-Simon Cronje Mari-Simon Cronje

The family of an 11-year-old girl killed in a banana boat accident have accused the company who organised the ride of "individually and collectively" avoiding responsibility for her death.

Mari-Simon Cronje, from Putney, was killed on September 11, 2010, when a speed boat ran over her at Princes Club Water Sports Park, in Bedfont, west London.

The youngster fell from a large yellow inflatable banana boat, which was being towed behind the speed boat, at a friend's birthday party.

Watching parents shouted and waved to attract the driver's attention but the boat was operating without an observer.

One of Mari-Simon's tried in vain to reach her and paramedics had to run for half of a kilometre, while carrying heavy equipment, but the Ibstock Place schoolgirl was pronounced dead at the scene.

Princes Club Sports initially denied the charges, preventing the Cronje family from getting closure and forcing them to potentially relive the ordeal in court.

But at Southwark Crown Court on Friday, the water sports company changed its plea to guilty, admitting a charge of corporate manslaughter.

A statement from the family said: "Mari-Simon died as a result of a catalogue of errors, all of which could have been prevented by competent management.

"We are and will always be deeply disappointed by the conduct and behaviour of the boat driver, the management and the owner of the Princes Sporting Club.

"There was no appreciation for the risk inherent to towing an inflatable and basic operating and emergency procedures were not in place.

"The inadequate Health and Safety regulations and the lack of legislation governing the towing of inflatable equipment, especially where children are involved, remains a further concern.

"Mari-Simon's death has left an unimaginable void in our lives."

Judge Alastair McCreath fined the company £134,579 stating that he would have fined the company so heavily it would have put it out of business had the law allowed him too.

He added "It is the greatest I can impose and not a true representation of the blame or the life that has been lost."

A report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said: "The use of safety procedures was 'flawed at every level' at the water park".

Elizabeth Joslin, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "This case highlights how an activity designed for harmless fun can involve an underlying serious risk and that companies must be vigilant and organise their activities in such a way as to meet their duty of care to their customers.

"Part of the fun was meant to be that riders would be shaken from the banana and fall into the water."

A previous charge of neglect against company director Frederick Walker was dropped.

 

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