Page last updated at 19:36 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 20:36 UK

Weather at Dreamspace event 'not discussed'

Elizabeth Anne Collings and Claire Furmedge
Claire Furmedge and Elizabeth Collings fell from the structure

Advisers for an inflatable artwork in which two women died did not consider the impact of the weather at a safety meeting, an inquest has heard.

Elizabeth Anne Collings, 68, and Claire Furmedge, 38, of County Durham, died when the Dreamspace artwork blew free in Chester-le-Street in July 2006.

Barbara Kilani was the secretary at an advisory meeting which took place before Dreamspace's installation.

She told the inquest crowd management was discussed, but not the weather.

The huge walk-in structure - half the size of a football pitch - took off in a gust of wind with up to 20 visitors inside.

The women died from injuries they sustained in the fall from the artwork as it was blown into the air.

Several other people were seriously hurt.

Chester-le-Street council, which has since been replaced by Durham County Council, had in existence a safety advisory group (SAG), the inquest heard.

'Inadequate' assessment

The SAG was made up of representatives from Chester-le-Street Council, Durham County Council and Durham's police, fire service and ambulance service.

It aimed to advise on events in the county and to provide a "safety net", making recommendations on health and safety, the inquest was told.

Giving evidence on the second day of the inquest, council employee Julie Lewcock said that in her view the original risk assessment that was submitted was "inadequate".

She also said she was at the site on the day it was inspected by a fire officer. She recalled the firefighter asking the designer Maurice Agis directly about the wind and the strength of the ropes.

She said Mr Agis did answer but the explanation was too technical for her to understand.

Chester-le-Street District Council, which staged the exhibition, was fined £20,000 after admitting health and safety offences.

Maurice Agis, 77, of Bethnal Green, east London, originally faced two counts of manslaughter. But following a month-long trial, a jury failed to reach a verdict on the charges.

Mr Agis, who died last October, had admitted failing to ensure the safety of the public and was fined £10,000.

The inquest hearing continues.

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