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Last Updated: Friday, 19 May 2006, 18:47 GMT 19:47 UK
Family unhappy after ride inquest
Hayley Williams

The family of a teenager who fell 100ft from a theme park ride has criticised the verdict at her inquest.

Hayley Williams, 16, from Pontypool, died after falling from Oakwood's Hydro rollercoaster in April 2004.

Coroner Michael Howells told the jury to return either an accidental death or narrative verdict, which outlines the circumstances of the death.

The jury returned a narrative verdict which simply outlined the facts and circumstances of Hayley's death.

After the inquest, her family expressed disappointment that an unlawful killing verdict was not considered.

Oakwood said it was "deeply affected" by Hayley's death adding that the theme park was safe.

Hayley was visiting Oakwood, in Pembrokeshire, with family and friends when she fell from the rollercoaster.

A four-day inquest in Haverfordwest heard from people who had been on the ride at the time of the accident, including Hayley's sister, as well as staff at the park.

Earlier on Friday, Hayley's mother left the court in tears as Pembrokeshire coroner Michael Howells ruled an unlawful killing verdict would not be considered.

Hayley did nothing wrong on the day she died other than set foot in Oakwood
Family statement

The coroner said that there had been no evidence of gross negligence by anyone involved.

Most of Friday morning's proceedings were taken up with legal argument without the jury present, which was when Mr Howells ruled he would not make the unlawful killing verdict available.

Summing up to the jury later on Friday, Mr Howells said it was clear that the lap bar restraint on the ride designed to stop people from falling out was not in position when it started with Hayley on board.

'Industry standard'

And he said it appeared Hayley's seatbelt had no been done up.

"The result was almost inevitable," he said.

"The G-force is likely to result in an unrestrained passenger being ejected from the boat.

Hydro water ride
I can assure visitors that Oakwood is a safe place to visit
Paddy McNamara, Oakwood

"As we know, Hayley was ejected and fell to her death."

He said no criticism could be directed at Oakwood in terms of the type of restraints on the ride which, he said, everyone had heard were "industry standard".

Mr Howells said both ride supervisor Gareth Etches and ride assistant Rebecca Chittleburgh, 21, knew that they had to physically check the passenger restraints, but this was not done.

He added any criticism of the training they had received and any perceived failures did not amount to gross negligence.

The jury's verdict stated: "Hayley Williams was ejected from the hydro ride because she was not properly restrained and died as a result of the injuries she sustained".

Mr Howells said he hoped that the thorough airing of all the facts would allow Hayley's parents to draw a line under the tragedy.

He told the family: "Nothing can replace Hayley but I hope you are now able to move on a little bit."

But Hayley's family said they were "disappointed" the jury was unable to consider an unlawful killing verdict.

A statement read: "Hayley did nothing wrong on the day she died other than set foot in Oakwood."

Hayley's father, Alan Williams, added: "She was the most precious and loving of daughters, always smiling and she loved her family and friends dearly.

"Her loss to us has been unbearable and our lives and those of her friends have been shattered."

The family's solicitor added that they did not intend to take the matter further.

Paddy McNamara, managing director of Oakwood, said in a statement that Hayley's death had "deeply affected and saddened everyone at Oakwood".

He added: "We accept and understand today's verdict which supports the findings of a long a thorough investigation by Dyfed-Powys Police and the Crown Prosecution Service who, in January, concluded that they would not be bringing any criminal charges against Oakwood.

"We have always has the highest safety standards and evidence during the inquest has shown that the Hydro ride, if properly operated, was perfectly safe.

"I can assure visitors that Oakwood is a safe place to visit."

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said its investigation into Hayley's death was continuing.

A spokesman said: "It is a very thorough and detailed investigation and HSE will not speculate on how long it will take to complete.

"However, we are in regular contact with Hayley's family and we will keep them informed of progress".




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
"She did nothing wrong... other than to set foot in Oakwood"



SEE ALSO:
Inquest on theme park ride death
16 May 06 |  South West Wales


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