Laura Sharman 21 July 2020

Council fined after fatal tree branch accident

Wirral Borough Council has been fined £100,000 after a pregnant woman lost her baby when a tree branch fell and hit her moving vehicle.

The woman, who was 36 weeks pregnant, was struck in the stomach after a large branch fell from a tree while she was driving her two other children to school.

Elizabeth Stear was taken to hospital where her baby was delivered by an emergency caesarean, but sadly only lived for 15 hours.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the council failed to identify and manage the risks from falling trees and branches. It also failed to properly inspect trees despite a similar incident occurring in January 2015.

The council pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £49,363.

HSE inspector, Rohan Lye, said: 'There are no winners in this sad case. councils have a duty to proactively assess and control risks to members of the public. This tragedy could so easily have been avoided if the risk had been identified, warnings had been heeded and an adequate tree management system had been implemented.'

Cllr Julie McManus, Wirral Council cabinet member for community services, said: 'I would like to reiterate my deepest sympathies to Mr and Mrs Stear and their family. I know there are no words that could make things any better for the family, but on behalf of Wirral Council I would like to apologise unreservedly for the failings which contributed to their tragic loss.

'The issues that were highlighted as a result of the investigation that followed Lucia’s death – and which formed the basis of this case - have led to substantial investment by Wirral Council in how it now manages tree inspections.'

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