Lessons from Drayton Manor Theme Park accident investigation

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The Jury in the Coroner’s Inquisition into the tragic death of Evha Jannath at Drayton Manor Theme Park in May 2017, returned a verdict of accidental death on 11 November 2019.

This verdict doesn’t mean that there aren’t lessons to be learned from what happened and neither does it mean that the regulatory investigation into the causes behind the incident is at an end.  Both will continue, the former to get to the root causes of the accident, and to do whatever it takes to prevent a recurrence, and for the latter to ensure that any party that needs to answer for any failings in their operation or management of the ride are brought to book.

This type of ride is one of the most popular, fun and busiest on many parks and many millions of individual, incident free rides will be taken on them every year.  Those that run in the UK have an excellent safety record but, even given that fact, both the industry and the regulator will be determined to learn everything possible from the incident, so operators can continue to offer the thrills and fun the public expect whilst ensuring the risks are reduced to the lowest possible level.

Shortly after the incident, and ahead of any findings, Finch was asked to work with forward thinking operators of similar rides to explore and develop further ride management and technical enhancements that would continue to allow the ride to operate at the intensity it does and to further reduce the likelihood, for any reason, of a person entering the water.  This involved our engineers, health and safety specialists, and behavioral experts working together to ensure the solution was workable, affordable and increased safety further, whilst satisfying the requirements of the HSE approved ADIPS scheme.

The HSE and HSL are also looking at the safety of and the levels of acceptable risk on water-based rides and the industry is waiting for the results.

The HSE stated in a Press Release on 17 October 2019 that they intend to bring a prosecution against Drayton Manor Theme Park under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.  They are likely to allege that Drayton Manor did not do all that was reasonably practicable to prevent the risk of harm to people including Eva Jannath, on the Splash Canyon ride.  If found guilty, Drayton Manor faces a potentially very large fine and may be required by the court or the HSE to conduct remedial work on the ride to reduce the possibility of recurrence.

The international publicity from this tragic case will also affect the wider industry and the members of the United Kingdom’s Amusement Devices Safety Council (ADSC) will look carefully at what comes from the case to see if lessons can be learned in areas other than those applying directly to this type of ride.

It’s unlikely, given the gravity of the case, that the matter will be concluded until 2021 and Finch is as keen as everyone else to see where that takes the industry at large.

*Photo taken from BBC website news story. February 2019. Theme.IE