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Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
Raft deaths firm owner walks free
Raft bounces on rapids on Salzach river
The raft capsized on the Salzach river, killing four people
The British owner of a rafting company has been found guilty of manslaughter and given a suspended sentence after four tourists died on a rafting trip in Austria.

The victims - one from Bedford, England, and three from Ireland - died when their raft was swept into a whirlpool during a trip down the Salzach river in 1999.

Raft centre owner Trevor Hamer, 47, was found guilty of manslaughter through negligence by a Salzburg court on Wednesday.

Mark Richardson
Raft victim Mark Richardson
He walked free after being given a 15-month prison sentence, suspended for three years.

The raft's guide, Gottfried Eder, 31, was also found guilty and was given a 12-month suspended jail sentence.

Salzburg police spokesman Klausberger Frederick said he understood both men had registered their intention to appeal against the verdicts.

'Irresponsible'

Judge Gabriel Steindl said the two men, both experienced in the rafting business, should have been able to foresee the dangers and should have warned inexperienced passengers.

It was "irresponsible" to select the landing spot they did, he added.

Raft which capsized on river Salzach
The raft is examined after the tragedy

The four tourists, including Mark Richardson from Bedford, were swept into a whirlpool during the trip in June 1999.

Three of Mr Richardson's friends, also from Bedford, survived.

The three Irish tourists killed were Alan Daly, 35, from Ballivor, John Thomas McGeough, 28, who was living in London, and his girlfriend Emma Duke, 28, from Dublin.

Banker Mr Daly was on the adventure trip with his wife Clodagh when the tragedy happened.

She was pregnant with their second child and could only watch in horror from the river bank as her husband and the three others plunged into the man-made weir to their deaths.


We had no idea there was any risk and, even when we went over the weir, I thought it was part of the trip

Tanya Davies

Tanya Davies, 26, the girlfriend of Mr Richardson, gave evidence at the Salzburg trial last month and claimed the doomed day trippers were not told the river journey could be dangerous.

"We had no idea there was any risk and, even when we went over the weir, I thought it was part of the trip," said Miss Davies, from Bedford.

Hamer and Eder had both denied the charges.

Gunther Dobretsberger, the lawyer for the two men, had argued that the accident occurred in unusual and unforeseeable circumstances.

Mr Eder testified that the raft overshot the landing point because the people in the boat stopped paddling.

One member of the crew then fell overboard and had to be pulled back into the raft, and while a security rope broke at the same time.

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See also:

08 Jun 99 | Europe
Raft victim was 'lovely lad'
28 Jul 99 | World
Danger of the white water
28 Jul 99 | Europe
Canyoning - too much of a thrill?
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