Coaster Kingdom

Hydro: Inquest overview
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Article imageThis is an overview of the inquest into the accident on Oakwood's Intamin ride, Hydro.

The accident

On 15 April 2004, Hayley Williams fell from Hydro at Oakwood. Her heart stopped, and she was pronounced dead upon arrival at hospital. A ten year-old, Martin Rothwell, was also injured as he was struck by Hayley as she fell.

The inquest

The inquest is to find out how Hayley Williams died. The coroner, Michael Howells, stressed the purpose is not to apportion blame for her death.

The verdict

There were three possible outcomes - unlawful killing which would probably have resulted in a manslaughter charge for the park or individuals, accidental death, which would have not have held any person or organisation responsible, or a narrative verdict which simply outlines the circumstances.

The coroner told the jury not to consider unlawful killing. The final verdict was a narrative verdict.

Who has appeared - from the park

  • Gareth Etchells, ride supervisor on the day of the accident
  • Rebecca Chittleburgh, ride assistant on the day of the accident
  • Simon Phillips, duty manager on the day of the accident
  • Paddy McNamara, managing director of Oakwood
  • Peter Owen, senior supervisor who trained Gareth Etchells
  • Gareth Scotcher, drew up rotas for the park
  • Mark Williams, human resources manager

Who has appeared so far - independent experts

  • Roger Jones, retired HSE engineer
  • Andy Laws, image expert who looked at CCTV footage

Who has appeared so far - from the day of the accident

  • Hannah Williams, Hayley's sister who was on the ride
  • Elizabeth Humphrey, Hayley's friend, also on the ride
  • Miles Mitchell, sat on the row behind Hayley
  • Craig Sutton Jones, sat next to Hayley's sister
  • The father of the 10-year-old who was hit by Hayley as she fell

Also at the inquest

  • Hannah Williams, Hayley's mother
  • Alan Williams, Hayley's father

Notable findings so far from the inquest

  • That the death of Hayley Williams was NOT unlawful
  • Bars were released and rechecked prior to dispatch
  • Not all restraints were checked prior to dispatch
  • Ride assistant was aware restraints must be physically checked
  • Ride supervisor was new to the ride, having received 20 minutes training
  • Ride supervisor was apparently not trained to physically check restraints
  • Ride assistant says she was distracted by something outside the station, and the ride was dispatched without her acknowledgment
  • One rider, Miles Mitchell, wasn't aware of seatbelts and rode without one
  • Without seatbelts, the restraints are easy to escape, and 'inadequate'
  • CCTV shows that Hayley's lap bar was not down
  • That it was unlikely that Hayley's seatbelt was fastened
  • CCTV also shows that ride assistant was in Hayley's vicinity but didn't check her restraint
  • There was no panic prior to the boat going down the drop
  • Ride supervisor signed form to say he had read and understood the manual although this was not the case
  • Human resources manager insists that ride supervisor would have had four days' of training
  • Managing director says that Oakwood is safe with over 120 million rides being given safely

Since the accident

The ride reopened in 2005 after being closed for the remainder of the 2004 season. Following recommendations by HSE, overhead restraints were fitted to the ride.

Why so long before the inquest?

Because of the investigation. Police had finished investigating the accident by September 2005, although they were awaiting advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as to whether manslaughter or corporate manslaughter charges should be bought.

Are Oakwood facing charges?

Not at the moment. CPS have decided not to charge the park, but the Health and Safety Executive will make a decision once the coroner publishes findings from the inquest. As it was a narrative verdict, it is unlikely HSE will press charges, although it is possible the family will want to take it further.

Following the inquest

The inquest has concluded with a result of a narrative verdict. It is unlikely HSE will want to press charges, although the family were furious at the verdict saying that it was an 'unlawful death'

The ride is now open with overhead restraints.

Full Hydro inquest coverage

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