THE owners of Weston-super-Mare’s Grand Pier have been ordered to pay almost £200,000 in fines and costs and comply with health and safety law after a Lydney woman died when one of the attraction’s advertising boards fell on her.
Margaret Carter died on October 28 2021 after one of the pier’s large A-frame advertising boards — which weighed more than 100 kilograms — was blown over by a strong gust of wind.
Mrs Carter – who was 94-years-old and described as “full of life” was knocked down by the board as she walked along the promenade.
Mrs Carter waited three hours in terrible weather for an ambulance, and died after eventually being taken by helicopter to Southmead Hospital in Bristol.
There would have been a “high risk of death” for an elderly person struck by the board even if medical attention had been received sooner. North Somerset magistrates’ court at Weston was told.
The court heard it was up to the judgement of Grand Pier staff as to whether it was too windy for the large A-boards to be out on the promenade.
At the time of the incident, Grand Pier Ltd, the company which owns and runs the attraction, had not appointed a competent person responsible for health and safety — in contravention of health and safety regulations.
The company pleaded guilty to a failure to discharge general health and safety duty to a person other than an employee, and contravening a health and safety regulation.
District Judge Angela Brereton find the company £133,200, and ordered costs of £61,187.84, and a £190 surcharge.
The prosecution was brought by North Somerset Council’s food and commercial safety team.
Mrs Carter was described by her family as having been “completely fit in both body and mind” and determined to live to 100.
Her son, Michael Carter told the court: “She was the most wonderful person, full of life and energy, even at the age of 94.”
He added that Mrs Carter was an “independent person,” employing no carers but just a gardener for her bungalow garden.
He told the court she was making the most of lockdown having been lifted earlier that year, and had been looking forward to a coach trip she had booked.
He said: “I just hope Mum is in a better place now, smiling down on us.
“And I hope lessons can be learnt from the terrible events.”
All three of her children attended court, and Mr Carter read victim statements from them all and from Mrs Carter’s son-in-law.
Susan Jane Firman, one of Mrs Carter’s daughters, said in her victim statement: “The most difficult thing at the time was that she must have been in so much pain.”
The company’s defence — which opened by expressing its sorrow for Mrs Carter’s death and apologising to the family — argued it only had a “medium culpability” for the tragedy so should face a lower fine.
District Judge Angela Brereton found that Grand Pier Ltd had a high culpability for the accident and imposed a fine towards the top end of the guidance amount.
Judge Brereton said that the health and safety systems in place were “clearly not adequate” and that employees did not have adequate training.
She added: “The offence exposed a number of members of the public to the risk of harm due to the number of visitors through the year.
“The breach of health and safety laws will not be tolerated and I greatly hope you will stop anything like this happening again.”
The A-boards have not been used since the accident. They were seized by North Somerset Council and Grand Pier Ltd told the court they did not want them back.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Carter said: “As a family we just hope the Grand Pier will learn from this tragic event and ensure they put health and safety measures in place for all aspects of their operation of the Grand Pier to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.
“It is just a shame the owner of the Grand Pier didn’t have the common decency to apologise personally after the sentencing.
“Words cost nothing and it would have meant a lot to our family.”