Fairground workers guilty of gross negligence manslaughter after bouncy castle death of Summer Grant

PUBLISHED: 15:37 09 May 2018 | UPDATED: 08:38 10 May 2018

Seven-year-old Summer Grant, from Hellesdon, who died in 2016.
Photo: supplied by Scala

Seven-year-old Summer Grant, from Hellesdon, who died in 2016. Photo: supplied by Scala

supplied by Scala

Fairground workers William and Shelby Thurston have been found guilty of the gross negligence manslaughter of Hellesdon girl Summer Grant, who died after a bouncy castle blew away with her inside it.

Shelby and William Thurston. Pic: Joe Giddens/PA Wire Shelby and William Thurston. Pic: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

The seven-year-old Valley Primary Academy pupil died in hospital after the bouncy castle at an Easter Fair in Harlow, Essex, blew away on March 26, 2016.

William Thurston, 29, and his wife Shelby, 26, had denied manslaughter by gross negligence and a health and safety offence.

But after two-and-a-half days of deliberations following a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court, the jury found the pair guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.

The defendants, of Whitecross Road in Wilburton, near Ely, Cambridgeshire, had told Chelmsford Crown Court that before the incident they had not thought winds were so strong that the inflatable was capable of blowing away.

Prosecutors said the defendants failed to ensure the bouncy castle was “adequately anchored” to the ground and failed to monitor weather conditions to ensure it was safe to use.

The couple were found guilty by majority verdicts of ten to two this afternoon. They were also found guilty of a health and safety offence following the incident.

There were gasps and sobs from relatives of the defendants as the verdicts were read out.

Summer Grant’s mother Cara Blackie appeared tearful as she left the courtroom before the hearing had finished, while Summer’s father Lee Grant remained in the room.

A candlelit vigil was held in Harlow Town Park for Summer Grant, who was fatally injured when a bouncy castle blew away as she played on it.
 PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY A candlelit vigil was held in Harlow Town Park for Summer Grant, who was fatally injured when a bouncy castle blew away as she played on it. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Judge Mr Justice Garnham, delaying sentencing until a later date, said he would be “seriously considering imprisonment”.

Shelby Thurston left the courtroom in tears, while William Thurston cried as he hugged a family member.

DCI Danny Stoten, of Essex Serious Crime Directorate, who was the senior investigating officer in the case, said outside court that Summer’s family were “pleased and relieved” with the guilty verdicts

He added: “I don’t think it’s quite set in at the moment, so they’ve asked to be given some time to come to terms with this result and then they’ll be happy to speak to the media.”

A candlelit vigil is held in Harlow Town Park for Summer Grant, who was fatally injured when a bouncy castle blew away as she played on it.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY A candlelit vigil is held in Harlow Town Park for Summer Grant, who was fatally injured when a bouncy castle blew away as she played on it. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

He added: “The Thurstons put profit before safety. They had huge weight on their shoulders and that was for the safety of children, other people’s loved ones.

“They put profit first, they’ve ignored the rules and the regulations, they didn’t conduct the checks they should have conducted and sadly Summer’s lost her life.”

A ‘cherished’ pupil - community was shocked by popular Summer’s tragic death

Following the tragic death of Summer Grant, friends and well-wishers left flowers, teddy bears and messages outisde the school where she was a pupil.

Douglas Dale, headteacher at the school, described Summer, who lived in Braeford Close, as a “cherished member” of the school.

He said: “Summer was an amazing girl - she was so full of kindness and a genuine source of inspiration for everyone she came in contact with.

“Her smile and the trademark flowers in her hair brightened up every day at school and she had such a love of life and a natural instinct to make the most of everything life had to offer.

“Summer’s unique, gentle nature makes her untimely death all the more cruel and difficult to comprehend.

“Summer was a wonderful sister and role model to her younger sister Lily and a loving and much treasured daughter. The whole school will miss Summer hugely but we won’t forget her.”

Her mother Cara Blackie said, following her daughter’s tragic death: “Summer was a bright, beautiful and most loving little girl it so unfair that you have been taken it just doesn’t make sense, I’m truly heartbroken.”

Summer’s father Lee Grant, of Harlow, added: “I never thought our beautiful angel would be taken away from us or that we would outlive her.

“She was the most happy, polite and beautiful girl in the world. I still can’t come to terms she’s not here. We all love you so so much, you will always be with us - love you to the moon and back, all our love Daddy, Mummy and family xxxx.”

In the days following Summer’s death, the gate of the park where the tragedy happened was covered with flowers and teddy bears, while people lit candles at a vigil for the little girl.

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