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London borough fined £330,000 after death of five-year-old girl in playground

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets has been fined £330,000 after a five-year-old girl died when playground equipment collapsed on top of her at Mile End Park.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that on 17 July 2015, Alexia Walenkaki was swinging on a rope attached at one end to a wooden post, when the play equipment gave way. The post snapped at its base causing the wooden structure to collapse on top of her. She sustained fatal head injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the council had failed to ensure that an annual playground safety check was carried out. Investigators also found the post was made from wood that was unsuitable and had decayed.

The HSE said the local authority had previously implemented a system of inspections to ensure that play equipment was safe to use. “However, the play equipment at Mile End Park had not been inspected by a playground inspector since September 2013. If the equipment had been inspected and tested for signs of rot, the risk may have been identified and appropriate action taken to remove and replace the equipment.”

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Tower Hamlets Council pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974. It was fined £330,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,204.

HSE inspector Stephron Baker Holmes said: “Those who provide play equipment should ensure it is safe for children. The lack of a suitable playground inspection in the period leading up to this incident has resulted in tragic consequences."

Will Tuckley, Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets, said: “We are deeply sorry for our part in Alexia’s death and our thoughts continue to be with her family.

“Following Alexia’s death, we immediately made urgent safety checks of equipment at all council-run play facilities and have brought in a more rigorous system for inspecting and maintaining park play equipment.

“Alexia should have been kept safe while using Mile End Park. No words can adequately express our regret that she was not.”

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