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TRAGEDY OF PARK RIDE GIRL; Seat bar 'unsafe' as 16-year-old dies in fall.

Byline: By RICHARD SMITH

A SUPERVISOR in charge of a rollercoaster ride from which a girl plunged 100ft to her death, failed to check that a security bar was properly closed, an inquest heard yesterday.

Gareth Etches, 24, had just 20 minutes' training before taking charge of the Hydro ride on the day of the tragedy.

Talented singer and Sunday school teacher Hayley Williams, from Pontypool, South Wales, died in April 2004. The 16-year-old fell from the giant ride at Oakwood Theme Park, in Narberth, West Wales, as her horrified family looked on.

The inquest heard safety checks were not made on lap-bars or safety belts by staff before the 24-seater ride or "boat" set off.

It climbed to 100ft before plummeting almost vertically into a plunge pool below.

The G-force on passengers in the rear of the boat, where Hayley was sitting, is so powerful it could flip them out if they were not properly secured, the court heard.

Mr Etches claimed he took charge of the ride for the first time on the day of the tragedy and after only 20 minutes of supervised training.

He alleged he was never warned of the potential risks to passengers. A safety manual states staff should physically check belts and lap-bars are in place before the ride sets off.

But Mr Etches told the inquest in West Wales: "I could clearly see whether the bars were down or not, but there is no way I could physically reach down and check the other side."

Coroner Michael Howells said: "There's evidence to suggest the bar was in an unsafe position."

Hayley's sister Hannah, now 15, said: "No checks were made. Then a friend screamed Hayley had fallen out but I had my eyes closed."

The hearing, at Haverfordwest, continues.

reporters@mirror.co.uk

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VICTIM: Hayley' G-FORCE: Hydro ride
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 17, 2006
Words:308
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