Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Dreamspace Deaths Were 'Accidental' Inquest Jury's Verdict in Less Than One Hour

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Dreamspace Deaths Were 'Accidental' Inquest Jury's Verdict in Less Than One Hour

Article excerpt

Byline: Joanne Butcher

TWO women who were killed when an inflatable artwork broke free and flipped into the air suffered accidental deaths, an inquest jury has ruled.

A six-day inquest into the artwork disaster came to a close yesterday with the coroner warning it was vital that lessons were learned from the tragedy.

The jury took less than an hos ur to reach their verdict on the deaths of Elizabeth Cummings, 69, from Seaham, and mother-of-two Claire Furmedge, 38, from Chester-le-Street at Chester-le-Street Magistrates Court yesterday.

The two women died in July 2006 when inflatable sculpture Dreamspace took off in a gust of wind.

After hearing evidence from Chester-le-Street Council officials, Dreamspace artist Maurice Agis's son, and promotion company Brouhaha International, coroner Andrew Tweddle directed the jury to return accidental death as the only appropriate verdict.

"In this case, I think there is none but that one verdict that you can properly return," he told the jury. "In law, there is no other conclusion."

He added: "What we have done over the course of this inquest is reveal what went on and how these two women met their deaths. The criminal trial decided a specific issue. We have been looking at the same story but through different eyes."

Mr Tweddle said it was vital lessons of the tragedy did not go unheeded.

He demanded a report into how safety procedures have changed as a result of the double deaths, both in relation to Chester-le-Street Council, now part of Durham County Council, which staged the exhibition, and Brouhaha.

The verdict brings to an end four long years of heartache for the families of Mrs Collings and Mrs Furmedge.

In a joint statement after the hearing, Mrs Collings' daughter Susan Campbell, and Mrs Furmedge's husband Gary, said: "We are relieved that nearly four years since the deaths of our loved ones, the inquest has provided us with the answers we awaited.

"The inquest has demonstrated clear failings on the part of Maurice Agis, Chester-le-Street District Council and Brouhaha International. …

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