'Wonderful' mum, 94, died after being struck by advertising board in Weston-super-Mare

Margaret Carter was 94 when she died. Credit: Michael Carter

A 94-year-old woman died after being hit by an advertising board near the Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare, a hearing has been told.

Margaret Carter, of Lydney, Gloucestershire, died on 28 October 2021 after one of the pier’s advertising boards - which weighed more than 100 kilograms - was blown over by a strong gust of wind, knocking her down.

She had been walking on the promenade at the time.

Mrs Carter waited three hours in terrible weather for an ambulance, and died after eventually being taken by helicopter to Southmead Hospital in Bristol.

In a single hearing at North Somerset Magistrates Court on Friday, the court heard that there would have been a "high risk of death" for an elderly person struck by the board even if medical attention had been received sooner.

Mrs Carter was described by her family as having been "completely fit in both body and mind" and determined to live to 100.

Her son, Michael Carter, told the court: "She was the most wonderful person, full of life and energy, even at the age of 94."

He added that Mrs Carter was an "independent person", employing no carers but just a gardener for her bungalow garden.

He told the court she was making the most of lockdown having been lifted earlier that year, and had been looking forward to a coach trip she had booked.

He said: 'I just hope mum is in a better place now, smiling down on us. And I hope lessons can be learnt from the terrible events."

All three of her children attended court, and Mr Carter read victim statements from them all and from Mrs Carter's son-in-law. 

Susan Jane Firman, one of Mrs Carter’s daughters, said in her victim statement: "The most difficult thing at the time was that she must have been in so much pain."

Margaret as a young woman. Credit: Michael Carter

The court heard it was up to the judgement of Grand Pier staff as to whether it was too windy for the large A-boards to be out on the promenade.

At the time of the incident, Grand Pier Ltd - the company which owns and runs the attraction - had not appointed a competent person responsible for health and safety, in contravention of health and safety regulations.

The company pleaded guilty to a failure to discharge general health and safety duty to a person other than an employee, and contravening a health and safety regulation.

It was fined £133,200, and ordered to pay costs of £61,187.84, and a £190 surcharge.

In the sentencing, the company’s defence - which opened by expressing its "sorrow" for Mrs Carter’s death and apologising to the family - argued it only had a "medium culpability" for the tragedy so should face a lower fine.

District Judge Angela Brereton found that Grand Pier Ltd had a high culpability for the accident and imposed a fine towards the top end of the guidance amount.

She warned that the health and safety systems in place were "clearly not adequate" and that employees did not have adequate training.

She said: "The offence exposed a number of members of the public to the risk of harm due to the number of visitors through the year."

District Judge Brereton said: "The breach of health and safety laws will not be tolerated and I greatly hope you will stop anything like this happening again."

The A-boards themselves have not been used since the accident. They were seized by North Somerset Council and Grand Pier Ltd told the court they did not want them back.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Carter said: "As a family we just hope the Grand Pier will learn from this tragic event and ensure they but health and safety measures in place for all aspects of their operation of the Grand Pier to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.

"It is just a shame the owner of the Grand Pier didn’t have the common decency to apologise personally after the sentencing. Words cost nothing and it would have meant a lot to our family."