Page last updated at 18:26 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Storm ruled out in artwork deaths

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

An inflatable artwork which flipped over killing two women was not ripped loose by a storm, a court has heard.

Its creator, Maurice Agis, 77, from East London, denies manslaughter and a breach of health and safety.

Claire Furmedge, 38, and Elizabeth Collings, 68, were killed in the accident in Chester-le-Street in 2006.

Meteorologist Adrian Runacres told Newcastle Crown Court a whirlwind could not have caused the 50m by 50m Dreamspace PVC structure to flip over.

He said the cloud cover and blustery wind, which was gusting at up to 16 knots, would have prevented a whirlwind.

'None whatsoever'

He said: "In my opinion, the thermal activity needed to create such an event would have been weak."

Paul Sloan, prosecuting, asked whether there was any evidence of a whirlwind. Mr Runacres replied: "None whatsoever."

At a previous hearing Mr Sloan said on the morning of the tragedy Mr Agis was about to tie the structure down with extra ropes, but had been distracted.

The women, from Seaham, were killed and 13 others were injured when the inflatable took off and blew across the Riverside Park.

The trial continues.

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