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Last Updated: Monday, 29 March, 2004, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Theme park accident owners fined
Thorpe Park
The teenagers were thrown about inside a dangling car at Thorpe Park
The owners of one of Britain's largest theme parks have been fined 65,000 after an accident on a ride left two teenagers dangling in a gondola.

Tussauds Theme Park received the fine on Monday after the incident at Thorpe Park in Surrey in September 2001.

Guildford Crown Court heard the pupils from a school in East Sussex were hurt on the Zodiac Enterprise ride.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of persons not in its employment.

It is a miracle that this didn't turn into an absolute tragedy
Judge John Crocker
As well as the 65,000 fine, Judge John Crocker ordered Tussauds to pay 35,000 costs.

The charge, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, stemmed from an incident at the park in Chertsey on 22 September 2001.

The court heard a group of children from a school in St Leonards, East Sussex, were on the Zodiac Enterprise ride when a support snapped.

A gondola carrying two teenagers, Gemma Clark and Scott Reeves, was left dangling from a single support.

As the operator tried to bring the ride to a halt, the gondola repeatedly hit decking at the bottom before coming to a stop, the court heard.

'Absolutely terrifying'

Imposing the fine, the judge said: "It is a miracle that this didn't turn into an absolute tragedy.

"Thankfully only minor injuries were caused although the incident was absolutely terrifying for those involved."

The judge criticised the length of time it took to shut down the ride after an abnormal noise had been noticed.

Charges against two employees at Thorpe Park were dropped in January because they could not be defined as "managers".

At the time, a spokesman for the park said it welcomed the collapse of those charges, saying the theme park accepted full responsibility for the incident.

Russell Adfield, the Health and Safety Executive's principle inspector for fairgrounds, said after the hearing: "The ride should have been stopped before the accident occurred.

"Failure to control risks to health and safety at fairgrounds is unacceptable and this prosecution and sentence reinforce that message."

Theme park charges dropped
14 Jan 04  |  Southern Counties

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