North West Wales

Zip wire: More regulation call after Bailey Sumner's accidental death

More regulations are needed for zip wires says a coroner, after an 11-year-old boy's death in a fall at a theme park was ruled as accidental.

Bailey Sumner, from Blackpool, had been wrongly attached to rope at Greenwood Forest Park near Caernarfon on Easter Sunday in 2011, an inquest jury heard.

The deputy coroner for north Wales said there were few regulations for zip wires and that needed to change.

Bailey's grandfather said afterwards lessons needed to be learned.

Meanwhile, Gwynedd council is investigating possible breaches of regulations.

The 145m (475ft) SwampFlyer ride had only been open a week at the time of the accident.

It has since been dismantled.

Park owner Stephen Bristow had told the three day jury inquest that the fact the child was attached wrongly should have been spotted during safety checks.

The coroner's court in Dolgellau heard there was "top-quality equipment" at the park, the staff were trained to check equipment and independent experts had been brought in to help set up the zip wire.

But the jury was also told that such rides do not need to be licensed and there were shortcomings on the guidance about how best to attach people.

There is also no national body with responsibility for overseeing safety of such rides.

The inquest was told that a mountaineering clip - called a carabiner - had been passed through a "false loop" in the rope supporting Bailey.

As soon as weight had been applied it became detached.

But the ride's operator Sion Richard Hughes insisted he would have spotted the error.

In a statement read to the inquest, Mr Hughes, 23, said: "I do not believe I clipped the carabiner to the wrong loop [on the harness]. I also believe I would have noticed."

Bailey was given emergency first aid by a nurse and doctor, who were visiting the theme park, after he fell.

He was airlifted to hospital in Bangor but he had suffered severe brain damage and a fractured skull and was declared dead.

Pathologist Dr Anthony Caslin said Bailey died after suffering a brain injury due to a fractured skull following a fall from height.

After the jury returned a verdict of accidental death, deputy coroner Nicola Jones said she would be writing to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and a range of other bodies.

She would ask for a wide range of changes, including licensing and guidelines on how rides should be built, staffed and equipped.

'Good advice'

Afterwards, Bailey's grandfather Philip Lonsdale said the family did not blame the park but hoped lessons would be learned.

"I think it's very important that the government should step in and make sure that there are regulations that cover these fixed zip wires," he said.

"It's been apparent throughout that regulatory bodies and good advice has not been available from people like the HSE and all of the other regulatory bodies that should be now saying 'let's get some licensing in place, let's get some good advice in place'."

He added: "It's been incredibly difficult and there's been quite a lot of tears, quite a lot of stress. But all the same the case itself has been dealt with very well."

Mr Bristow said that the park has always had the highest safety standards.

"However, there is currently no specific guidance in place which relates to the circumstances which led to Bailey's death," he added.

"We therefore welcome the coroner's move to urge the HSE to consider whether specific guidance should be drafted and made publicly available for permanent zip wires to ensure a tragic accident like this doesn't happen again."

He added: "We can assure visitors that the park is a safe place to visit.

"The tragic death of Bailey has deeply affected and saddened everyone at Greenwood. We are so sorry that this terrible accident happened at our park."

The incident was investigated by the HSE and Gwynedd council but no prosecutions have been brought against the park.

After the inquest, a Gwynedd council spokesperson said it was continuing to carry out investigations into possible regulatory breaches.

"Our officers have been carefully considering all the possible options before deciding what action is necessary," they said.

"Now that the inquest has come to an end, we will be moving forward to pursue these actions."

More on this story