Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

November 18, 2015

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Ski lift operator guilty of indirect manslaughter of Devon teen

A ski lift operator has been found guilty of the indirect manslaughter of a 14-year-old boy, from Devon, who died while on his first ski trip in the Alps. The charge is roughly equivalent to involuntary manslaughter in England and Wales.

Kieran Brookes, a pupil at Torquay Grammar School, was strangled when the straps of his backpack became entangled as he tried to get off a ski lift near Geneva, in February 2011.

Eyewitnesses said he was suspended in the air for around four minutes before he was released.

Attempts were made to revive him for about eight minutes before he was taken to a hospital in Annecy, France, suffering from a severe brain injury. He was later taken to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, where he died in March 2011.

Richard Cettour, 50, of Bonnevaux, France, who was supervising the lift, was given a six-month suspended sentence.

It was heard how he was responsible for the safety of skiers using the lift, but was found not to have been at his post at the time of the accident, and failed to react to other skiers who were calling for him to press the emergency stop button.

The firm which operated the lift, SAEM Sports et Tourisme a Châtel, was also accused of indirect manslaughter but was cleared of the charge.

Kieran’s parents, Nick and Cindy Brookes, said: “This has been an incredibly difficult process and yet we do not feel that justice has been done.

“We are satisfied that someone has been held to account over Kieran’s death.

“However, we believe that this tragedy highlighted serious industry failings which went further than an individual’s inattention.

“Without widespread improvements across the industry we think a similar tragedy could happen again.

“It is only a slight consolation that the resort operator has apologised to us for failings, and admitted moral guilt over Kieran’s death.”

The family’s lawyer Mark Montaldo, of Slater and Gordon, said: “It has been heart-breaking for Kieran’s family to hear details of the very serious safety failings which led to this tragedy.

“From the outset, Mr and Mrs Brookes have been determined that lessons are learned from this incident.

“They hope that this verdict and sentence will send a powerful message throughout the industry that safety must be paramount.”

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