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Southport firm sentenced over teenage biker’s death

Date:
13 September 2013

A Southport firm has been ordered to pay more than £100,000 in fines and costs following the death of a teenager who came off his motorbike when it collided with a metal cable strung between two trees.

Seventeen-year-old Ryan Acaster from Chorley had been riding his 110cc off-road bike when it hit a 2cm-thick wire on the Hesketh Estate in Crossens on 20 July 2008. He was thrown from his bike and suffered fatal head injuries.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted JA Jones & Sons (Churchtown) Ltd – a tenant on the country estate – after an investigation found the company had erected the cable in a dark, wooded area part of the way down a track.

Liverpool Crown Court heard today (13 September 2013) that Ryan was visiting the 2,000-acre estate with a couple of friends to use his off-road bike on a track next to Suttons Wood.

He was travelling at less than 20 miles per hour when he collided with the cable, which was strung across the track a metre above ground. He was taken to hospital where he died from his injuries.

HSE found the wire had been erected several weeks before the incident by one of JA Jones & Sons’ employees to stop unauthorised access. A ‘No Access’ sign was on the cable but had been replaced with a T-shirt at some point prior to Ryan and his friends visiting the estate.

JA Jones & Sons, which runs a tree farm on the estate, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company, of Bankfield Lane in Churchtown, Southport, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £50,209 in prosecution costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Lisa Bailey said:

"Ryan’s tragic death at such a young age could have been avoided if JA Jones & Sons had thought more about the potential consequences of erecting the cable.

"It was strung between two trees in a dark, wooded area part of the way down the track, which made it difficult to see for anyone travelling towards it. Sadly, Ryan was thrown from his bike when he collided with the cable and suffered fatal head injuries as a result.

"If the company wanted to stop people from using the track then it should have installed a proper barrier or warning sign at the entrance. That way, it could have kept vehicles away without putting lives in danger."

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

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