Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Court Hears of Terror

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Court Hears of Terror

Article excerpt

Byline: By Neil Mckay

The owners of a North theme park were yesterday hit with a pounds 94,000 bill for a "death-defying" accident in which a military truck plunged into a river.

Children as young as two were among 18 passengers on the ride at Diggerland, in Langley Park, Durham, when it plunged down a ravine and into the River Browney.

Durham Crown Court was told yesterday the huge all-terrain military truck was being driven by a 17-year-old driver who was working at Diggerland during his school holidays.

The truck involved in the accident, a Hagglund BV206, is normally used by Army Artillery, Engineer and Signals units forming part of the Commando Brigade, and is designed for use in snow, soft ground or even desert sand.

And yesterday the owners of Diggerland were ordered to pay pounds 94,000 in fines and costs after admitting failing to ensure the safety of their passengers on the ride, which, a safety expert said, "would have been dangerous for soldiers, never mind two-year-old children".

The court was told teenager Graeme Hall, from Lanchester, had passed his driving test just months before the accident, in April 2004, and was given only "cursory" instructions lasting half a day before he took charge of the vehicle and its passengers.

Paul de Jehan, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive, said the vehicle failed to negotiate a sharp bend and slid 60ft down a steep bank and a further 10ft over a wall, before coming to rest in the shallow River Browney.

Terrified passengers were unable to unfasten their seat belts in the water, and: "But for the fact that the water was low, the consequences could have been entirely different." Mr de Jehan said children under the age of three should not have been allowed on the ride, but some were on board with their parents.

He said a lack of padding meant that passengers' limbs made contact with the metalwork, and they suffered painful injuries. …

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