THE RIDE OF DEATH

Fairground ride inspector Barry Ramsey had an unusual technique for testing the safety of an attraction.

He would check a car by ‘getting hold of it and giving it a good shove.’

His laziness would cost two young pleasure-seekers their lives in an horrific tragedy.

The warning signs were there before Australian backpacker Nacelle Cozens, 28, and her boyfriend IT consultant Michael Lawrence, 24 were hurled to their deaths from the Super Trooper II.

A toy train was derailed at a Barry fun park on November 29, 1999 after Ramsey failed to carry out a proper electrical examination.

He was fined £2,000 with £1,500 costs.

Ramsey was given a suspended sentence by Dorking Magistrates after two people were seriously injured on another ride he had passed as safe.

The restraining rail on the Cyclone ride failed at Leatherhead Leisure centre on March 16, 2000 – the same year as the Super Trooper II disaster.

His sentence was later reduced to a conditional discharge.

When Ramsey gave the Super Trooper II his seal of approval the 18-year-old ride was riddled with rust, cracks and metal fatigue.

Three weeks later a seat frame sheared off when the ride was running at full speed at a fair in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, catapulting a car 60 feet on to a sideshow roof.

Nacelle and Lawrence were trapped inside and died from multiple injuries.

Their friend David Johnson, 26, from Nottingham, who was sitting next to them, suffered two broken legs and a severe gash to his head.

The accident, is believed to be the first time in British fairground history that a car has been torn free from a ride.

Ramsey was convicted of two charges of manslaughter after the Old Bailey heard he looked at the Super Trooper for just two hours before passing it as safe to use.

He was paid £70 by the owner.

A thorough series of tests should have taken him eight hours.

Ramsey managed to examine 14 other attractions on the same day, and was accused of being a ‘soft touch’ for ride owners because of his lax approach to safety.

On May 27, 2000, fairgoers watched in terror as the spinning car was wrenched from its mounting and narrowly missed spectators on the ground as smashed into the sideshow.

Relatives of the victims wept as the court heard how the victims rocketed through the air and into a stand containing cuddly toys.

Mr Maxwell Sappleton had gone to the fair with his two young daughters and was watching one of his children on the Super Trooper as it span around.

‘I heard a crunch followed by a louder crunch,’ he recalled in a statement read to the court.

‘The seat containing the two men and the woman broke away from the side and flew through the air.

‘It landed in the tent, first missing a family of four who were walking along.’

Mr Sappleton told the controller to stop the ride before trying to help the victims.

Mr Stephen Whitelock was at the fair with his son aged ten.

The boy wanted to go on the Super Trooper the ride was full and they had to wait for the next turn.

He recalled a ‘distinctive crunching sound’ and saw a fountain of metal shrapnel spurting into the air.

‘I noticed the carriage was twisting while the other were facing in the same direction,’ Mr Whitelock said.

‘The same carriage sheared off and flew through the air.’

He saw the feet and heads of the three victims as the carriage crashed into the cuddly toy stall.

‘The car fell quickly on the ground and rolled forward, trapping the people inside,’ Mr Whitelock said.

He lifted the safety bar from the unconscious occupants as a police officer called for an ambulance.

Mr Whitelock said his son was so traumatised by the incident that he had to have psychiatric counselling.

Health and Safety officials later found defects in every major component of the ride.

It was so dangerous that scientists refused to run it even without passengers because of the risk to the controller.

Cracks in the central turret which supported the arms and seats of the ride could have led to a failure at any time with catastrophic results.

Problems with the machinery could have allowed the whole ride to rock backwards and forwards or come to a juddering halt.

The customer walkway was also in danger of collapse because of cracking, the court was told.

But the worst defects were found in the seats themselves, with eight out of twelve showing cracks.

Rust had reduced the steel supports to less than a millimetre thick in some areas.

Part of one frame was cracked on three of its four sides leaving the crucial component at just quarter of its original strength.

Ramsey said he simply did not see the cracks, claiming some were obscured by grease or welding.

His solicitor, Mr Niall Quinn said Ramsey has been struggling to make ends meet as a heating and plumbing engineer since the accident.

‘His life has been wrecked by this incident. It was a blow from which he will never recover,’ Mr Quinn said.

‘He stands before you a bewildered and confused man. He does not know what is happening to him.’

As Ramsey was jailed for 18 months, Mr Lawrence’s engineer father David said after the case: ‘How can an inspector work with impartiality when he is being paid by the owner?

‘It’s incredible.

‘This was more a heap of scrap iron than a fairground ride.’

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