Newcastle City Council is fined after a falling tree kills a 6-year-old girl in the schoolyard

A council has been fined £280,000 after a six-year-old girl was killed by a falling tree in her schoolyard.

Her parents said they hope lessons will be learned after their daughter died when the decaying willow tree collapsed in 2020.

Neil and Vikki Henderson said their daughter Ella was “so loved and has so much to give to this world” after they overheard her playing with friends at Gosforth Park First School in Newcastle on September 25, 2020 as a decaying tree collapsed .

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), several other children were struck by the fall tree however, was able to escape with superficial injuries – however, Ella had to be freed by rescue workers and later died in hospital.

The HSE found that the tree was in poor condition and that Newcastle City Council had failed to manage the risk involved.

The council pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety Act and was fined £280,000 and ordered to pay £8,020 in costs in South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, the HSE confirmed.

Mr and Mrs Henderson said after the hearing: “We are devastated beyond words to hear how many times this outcome could and should have been changed.

“No family should ever have to go through what we’re going through.

“We hope that lessons will be learned from this and we believe there needs to be better education and information about this trees are fit for schoolyards and the size to which they are allowed to grow.

In a statement read in court, Ms Henderson, from Newcastle, said: “We are now living with a complete hole in our lives.”

She said: “To see everyone’s lives move on and their children and their friends grow older while we remain still – always with a six-year-old who will never get her front teeth is devastating.

“When you lose a child, you live two lives: the one you should live and the life you must live.”

Ms Henderson said: “She should have felt so confident at school and knowing I’m the only one who can’t pick up her child every day is just the worst feeling.

“If I pass schools anywhere along the way and I hear that innocent sound of children playing, I think that’s all she did. She only played ballerinas with her friends.

“Life is so unfair and she was so loved and had so much to give to this world.”

HSE Chief Inspector Victoria Wise said: “The tree that collapsed and struck Ella Henderson in the Gosforth Park First School playground was derelict and in poor condition.

“Newcastle City Council had failed to determine the extent of the decay or manage the risk it posed tree.

“It had terrible consequences and Ella’s death was completely avoidable.”

Newcastle City Council chief executive Pam Smith said the agency fully accepts the court’s ruling.

She said: “Ella’s death was a devastating tragedy and our hearts go out to her family and friends.

“While we take our health and safety responsibilities very seriously, we fully accept that there were flaws in our processes, which is why we took the opportunity to plead guilty at the first opportunity.”

Ms Smith said the council has reviewed its processes and put in place new procedures to prevent such an incident from happening again.

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