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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 October, 2004, 19:35 GMT 20:35 UK
Family attack ride death verdict
Gemma Savage
Gemma Savage was studying biomedical sciences in Durham
The family of a student who died after a collision on a roller coaster has criticised the coroner for not allowing a verdict of unlawful killing.

The jury at Skipton Magistrates' Court returned a verdict of misadventure in the case of the death of Gemma Savage.

Miss Savage, 20, of Wath upon Dearne, South Yorkshire, was fatally injured in an accident at Lightwater Valley, North Yorkshire, in June 2001.

Deputy Coroner John Sleightholme had directed jurors to the verdict.

In the light of today's verdict, HSE will now be reviewing and examining the evidence placed before the inquest
Paul Robinson, Health and Safety Executive
After the conclusion of the inquest, Miss Savage's mother, Linda, said: "We are disappointed that the coroner did not leave the verdict of unlawful killing to the jury."

Alongside her husband, Stuart, son Robert and daughter, Rachel, Mrs Savage said the family had heard nothing to convince them safety levels had improved at the theme park since the accident.

She described her daughter as "beautiful, bright and loving" and who had "everything to live for".

Mrs Savage added that her daughter died in an "awful, needless way".

Faulty wiring

The inquest heard that Miss Savage had been visiting the theme park with friends in June 2001 to celebrate the end of their second year at Durham University.

The friends were on the Treetop Twister ride when their car was one of three stopped by the ride's computer system.

Maintenance electrician Eric Butters began a manual procedure to bring the carriages down safely, but a wiring fault meant that the computerised system carried on working at the same time.

Miss Savage's car was released, shunting the car in front before rolling backwards and forwards in a dip in the track and colliding at top speed with the third car.

The 20-year-old suffered serious head and spinal injuries and died at Leeds General infirmary, the court heard.

The inquest heard that Mr Butters had not pressed the emergency stop button which would have turned off the computer.

The company wishes to express its regret to the family of Gemma Savage for the tragic events that occurred on 20 June 2001
Dudley Westgate, Lightwater Valley
Mr Butters and his colleagues had received just one hour of training and were never told to press the emergency stop button before attempting to use the manual controls, the jury were told.

After the verdict, Mr Sleightholme told the family he was aware of their views, but hoped the hearing had meant all the information about Miss Savage's death had been aired.

He had told jurors that misadventure was the only appropriate verdict.

Dudley Westgate, operations manager at Lightwater Valley, said outside the court: "The company wishes to express its regret to the family of Gemma Savage for the tragic events that occurred on 20 June 2001.

"From the evidence provided at the inquiry, a number of different factors combined to cause this tragedy, several of which were the responsibility of others rather than Lightwater Valley."

Legal action

Mr Westgate said the Health and Safety Executive approved the reopening of the ride in August 2001 subject to the completion of further testing and it opened again for the 2002 season.

Paul Robinson, who led the investigation for the Health and Safety Executive, said legal action may be brought following the conclusion of the inquest.

He said: "In the light of today's verdict, HSE will now be reviewing and examining the evidence placed before the inquest.

"I would like to take this opportunity to place on record our sadness at Gemma's death and express our condolences to her family."

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