A Scottish local council has been fined £20,000 after a man drowned when he drove off the unprotected edge of a coastal car park and fell in to the sea.
On 17 September 2007, Duncan MacGillivray, 75, was attempting to move his car out of a car-park space at Coal Pier, Dunoon. The car park was operated by Argyll and Bute Council and was positioned on a stone jetty, which was formerly used as a dock.
It is believed that Mr MacGillivray accidentally put his car into forward gear, rather than reverse, to exit a parking bay. The vehicle mounted the edging, and, as there was no protective barrier, it fell approximately three metres into the sea below. Mr MacGillivray’s car was upside down in the water and he drowned after becoming trapped inside.
The Police initially investigated the incident and the HSE did not become aware of the case until July 2008. HSE inspector Mike Orr revealed that there were barriers around two of the three sides of the car park, but there was none in place in the area where Mr MacGillivray had parked.
Inspector Orr said: “Mr MacGillivray died in tragic and traumatic circumstances, ultimately drowning in the sea below the pier. A simple risk assessment would have identified the clear risks of an unprotected sheer drop into the sea at the edge of a car park – but, sadly, the council failed to do this.
“The council was responsible for the maintenance and operation of this charging public car park. When it changed the use of the pier from a commercial site, it should have quickly identified any risks to members of the public. It’s simply not acceptable that this didn’t happen.”
Argyll and Bute Council appeared at Dunoon Sheriff Court on 18 August and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) and s33(1) of the HSWA 1974. There were no costs awarded in addition to the fine as the case was heard in Scotland.
The council had no previous related convictions and told the court that it had taken immediate action to remove the danger. It carried out a risk assessment, which led to barriers put in place on the unprotected edge. It also carried out checks at all of the other waterfront car parks that it operates to ensure adequate edge protection was in place.
A statement from the council, said: “Argyll and Bute Council deeply regrets that this accident was able to happen, and the distress that Mr MacGillivray’s death brought to his family and friends.
“Actions carried out to prevent a recurrence before the car park reopened included the installation of a traffic barrier and pedestrian hand rails.
“All other Argyll and Bute car parks located on or next to piers were also re-examined to ensure that no similar problems existed, and all were found to be safe.”
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