Page last updated at 18:15 GMT, Friday, 30 January 2009

Artwork death park 'a war scene'

Maurice Agis
Maurice Agis denies all charges relating to the incident in July 2006

A County Durham park looked like a "war scene" after an inflatable artwork flipped over, a court has been told.

Two women died when the Dreamspace sculpture broke free from its moorings in Chester-le-Street in 2006.

Its creator, Maurice Agis, 77 and from East London, is accused of manslaughter and a breach of the Health and Safety Act. He denies all charges.

A firefighter who was at the scene told Newcastle Crown Court that people were "lying around all over the place."

Peter McDermott, of County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said that after the sculpture got snagged on a CCTV pole and deflated, fire officers had to use knives to cut it open to search for survivors.

They tried to hold it down, but it didn't work.
St John Ambulance superintendent

On the day before the incident he had issued Dreamspace with a fire safety certificate.

During the inspection Mr McDermott heard that the inflatable had taken off on a previous occasion, and if it did lift off visitors were asked to leave.

He said staff told him visitors "sort of enjoyed it and it was sometimes difficult to get the people to evacuate the structure".

Keith Vickers, a St John Ambulance superintendent, told the court that Mr Agis was lifted off the ground as he and a member of his staff struggled with the inflatable.

He said: "They tried to hold it down, but it didn't work."

Claire Furmedge, 38, from Chester-le-Street and 68-year-old Elizabeth Collings, from Seaham, died and 13 people were hurt in the incident at Riverside Park.

The trial continues.



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