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April 22, 2014

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Young sailors, who collided with 24 children on board, cleared in court


Two young sailors, who collided when they were transporting 24 children across Cardiff Bay, leaving an 11-year-old girl brain damaged, have been cleared of speeding and failing to keep a proper look-out.
Nia Jones and Eleni Morus, both 17 at the time, have both represented Great Britain at sailing. They were in charge of the group of 24 girls aged 10-14 on a residential sailing course during half-term in October 2010, when the incident happened. 
Cardiff Crown Court heard how on the night of the incident, the group were returning from an evening ice-skating to their hostel in two speedboats.
Miss Jones began speeding and weaving after being urged to go faster by the school girls, it was alleged.
“We were urging Nia to go faster and she said, ‘sod it’ and then did it,” one of the schoolgirls told the court.
“We were excited but some people told Nia to slow down. She went over the wake of the other boat a couple of times before we crashed.”
“Just before we collided I think we all knew we were going to crash but we didn’t move or scream, we didn’t have time to,” she said. 
The boats collided and an 11-year-old girl was thrown from one vessel to the other, suffering brain damage, while two others fell into the water.
One suffered long-term injuries to her rib and another had a black eye.
Judge Neil Bidder QC said Miss Jones and Miss Morus had been asked to take the children back to the hostel after one was injured and there were not enough adults to supervise the remaining group.
The court also heard how the women had been given little information about what the job entailed when they were employed.
Following the judge’s dismissal of the outstanding charges Russell Kelly, the solicitor representing the pair, said: “The defendants are relieved that this is all over. 
“They’ve every sympathy for the girls who were injured in the incident and sincerely hope that they make a full recovery.
“Both defendants now just want to concentrate on their studies and put this ordeal behind them.”
In mitigation Miss Jones said she had no previous experience of driving at night and did not realise she was not qualified to do so. She denied speeding up under the girls’ bidding and said she would not have used the language attributed to her.
Miss Morus said she was not speeding that night and had maintained a proper look-out throughout.
Nicholas Sawyer and Cardiff Bay Yacht Club, who organised the course, have admitted offences in connection with the incident and breaking health and safety regulations. 

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In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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