Page last updated at 19:02 GMT, Monday, 26 April 2010 20:02 UK

Securing fatal inflatable Dreamspace 'not discussed'

Elizabeth Anne Collings and Claire Furmedge
Claire Furmedge and Elizabeth Collings fell from the structure

Advisers asked to approve the installation of an artwork in which two women died did not discuss how to fix it to the ground, an inquest heard.

Elizabeth Anne Collings, 68, and Claire Furmedge, 38, of County Durham, died when the Dreamspace inflatable blew free in Chester-le-Street in July 2006.

An arts officer who consulted the advisory meeting told the inquest there was no "ground fixing" discussion.

Artist Maurice Agis was convicted of health and safety breaches in 2009.

He died in hospital last October.

The inquest heard that Chester-le-Street council, which has since been replaced by Durham County Council, had in existence a safety advisory group (SAG).

The SAG was made up of representatives from Chester-le-Street Council, Durham County Council and Durham's police, fire service and ambulance service to advise on events in the county and to provide a "safety net", making recommendations on health and safety.

Maurice Agis
Maurice Agis was fined for failing to ensure the safety of the public

Former arts officer of Chester-le-Street Council, Jo-anne Simpson, said she had consulted this group in preparation for bringing Dreamspace V to the town.

She was asked by the coroner, Andrew Tweddle, if there had been any discussion at the meeting about how the artwork should be secured and if there had been a council health and safety officer present.

She answered "no" to both questions.

Gust of wind

The inquest heard that the plan had been to secure the giant inflatable artwork at Riverside Park using 40 stakes.

The huge walk-in structure - half the size of a football pitch - took off in a gust of wind with up to 20 visitors inside.

The jury heard the women died from massive injuries sustained in the fall from the artwork as it was blown into the air.

Several other people were seriously hurt.

Chester-le-Street District Council, which staged the exhibition, was fined £20,000 after admitting health and safety offences.

Maurice Agis, 77, of Bethnal Green, east London, originally faced two counts of manslaughter. But following a month-long trial, a jury failed to reach a verdict on the charges.

He admitted failing to ensure the safety of the public and was fined £10,000.

The hearing continues.

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