England

Human cannonball stunt death boss gets community service

Scott May Image copyright Gareth Fuller
Image caption Scott May's company's approach to health and safety was "lackadaisical", the court heard

The organiser of a daredevil stunt show in which a "human cannonball" died has been given a 12-month community order and his firm fined £100,000.

Scott May and the company, Stunts UK Ltd, admitted failing to ensure the safety of his workers at the 2011 event in which Matthew Cranch died.

Mr Cranch, 24, originally from the Isle of Man, was killed when a safety net collapsed during the show in Kent.

May, 40, had pleaded guilty at Maidstone Magistrates' Court.

Mr Cranch, who had joined the show about four weeks before his death, suffered multiple injuries when the safety net, designed to catch him after he was fired into the air, failed.

Image caption Matt Cranch was killed taking part in a stunt at Kent County Showground

The prosecution, brought by Maidstone Borough Council under Health and Safety legislation, said a mechanism which triggered the release of the net had not been set properly and was not necessary for the stunt.

Mark Watson, prosecuting, told Maidstone Crown Court: "It [the mechanism] introduced a wholly unacceptable level of risk in relation to this stunt which was unnecessary."

Tanya Robinson, representing May, of Higher Bosavern, St Just, near Penzance, Cornwall, said she believed her client had done enough to protect his staff.

"It was far from a cowboy operation, doing anything to make a profit," she said.

Image caption Mr Cranch died in hospital after being fired from the cannon mounted on a lorry

Judge Jeremy Carey said the offence had been "committed through omission rather than act".

He said: "In my judgment there was plainly far too much reliance on word of mouth and practice handed down the line from one employee to another in respect of their sphere of work."

May's community order includes 150 hours of unpaid work, and the company, of which May was a director, was ordered to pay £80,000 costs.

In a statement read to the court, Mr Cranch's family said they would "never be able to accept or recover from" his loss.

They added: "We will always be grateful and thankful for his love and the time we were able to spend together."

'Not ignoring risks'

The court heard that the quick-release mechanism was designed to be activated when Mr Cranch had landed in the net.

Mr Watson said it had not been set properly and could lead to the net unintentionally dropping down.

Ms Robinson said May had not been aware of this possibility as it had never happened in the previous 1,000 performances of the stunt.

"They were not ignoring risks," she said. "It just did not occur to them with regard to this mechanism and the way it worked."

An inquest jury last year ruled the death was an accident.

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