This week I read of not one, but two alarming incidents, where the small children of two families thankfully escaped serious injuries, in separate accidents.
In York city centre last week shoppers were enjoying the sunshine, and some organised summer activities in the Coppergate Centre when a huge branch, measuring over 10 inches thick, cracked and fell an estimated 40 feet from a mature horse chestnut tree. The branch fell onto a family who had been sitting in the shade of the tree, covering them with branches and leaves, and destroying a metal barrier which was directly underneath it.
The family, including a toddler in a pushchair and a young boy, were helped out from underneath the tree and treated by first aiders from a local retailer, before being cared for by paramedics, however unbelievably they suffered only minor cuts and scratches albeit that they were extremely shaken.
Following the incident, police cordoned off the area underneath the tree with barriers. It is understood that the tree is the responsibility of the Coppergate Centre rather than the Council, and the Centre Manager, Deb O'Donnell gave a statement saying that the tree had been inspected only 3 weeks earlier on the 4th of July, by the Centre's specialist arboriculture team and that no issues had been reported with it. The Centre confirmed that they carried out regular assessments on the tree and that an investigation was underway as to why the incident had occurred.
The second incident occurred at the Dunster Country Fair held at Dunster Castle on the 24th of July when a toddler was thrown from her pushchair due to a rampaging horse. The horse, part of the Minehead Harriers hunt meeting, threw its rider off, onto the bonnet of a Land Rover. The rider then fell off onto the nearby pushchair, causing the sleeping toddler to be thrown to the floor. An eyewitness confirmed that the horse had bolted straight for the spectator's area, and continued to kick and rear just inches from where the fallen child lay. Amazingly there were no injuries reported to either the animal, its rider, or the toddler.
Neither of these incidents could have been foreseen and thankfully no serious injuries were sustained. However, this demonstrates that even when the greatest of care is taken when organising events, such as properly cordoning off a spectator's area, and carrying out regular and thorough checks on the tree, unpredictable events, there can always be an element of unpredictability and accidents can occur.
By Pauline Smith, personal injury team