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Family consult lawyers after death

PUBLISHED: 19:00 03 April 2003 | UPDATED: 13:42 03 March 2010

LAWYERS were today helping the parents of a Felixstowe toddler killed by a falling tree to decide whether they should take further action over his death.

LAWYERS were today helping the parents of a Felixstowe toddler killed by a falling tree to decide whether they should take further action over his death.

An inquest was told Suffolk Coastal council should have received severe weather warnings about the 80mph winds which felled the tree – but due to a mix-up with the Met Office, no message was received.

The inquest jury returned a majority verdict of "accidental death" after hearing how three-year-old Benjamin Davey was crushed in his pushchair by a 23 metre high common ash at The Grove, Felixstowe.

But the family, which was legally represented at the inquest, heard that even though it was the worst storm to hit Britain in a decade, it will never be known whether the council would have put up warning signs to keep people out of the wood, even if the Met Office warning had been received.

Greater Suffolk Coroner Peter Dean described Benjamin's death as a "very, very tragic incident".

He said: "It was as if they were in the wrong place at the wrong time almost – a few seconds earlier or a few seconds later and this tragedy might not have taken place with such devastating consequences."

Dr Dean stressed that the inquest was a fact-finding exercise to get as close to the truth as possible and would not determine liability.

Council officials told the inquest at County Hall in Ipswich that they had a two-fold system to receive severe weather warnings from the Met Office.

District emergency planning officer Mike Topliss said the authority used to receive its warnings via Ipswich Borough Council, but this system stopped last spring.

The council then registered with the Met Office and was told by telephone that it was on the database. It also had an arrangement to receive warnings from Suffolk Fire Service.

Mr Topliss said severe weather warnings of a 50pc chance of disruption by strong winds were issued on October 25 and 26 to other councils, but Suffolk Coastal received no warning message.

It was later discovered the council's details had not been registered on the Met Office database. It was not known why the fire service had not sent a message.

He said the Met Office now had the council's details.

"The system is now robust and since October 27 we have had seven further severe weather warnings and they have all come through as they should do," said Mr Topliss.

A 50pc chance of disruption though was low and it was not known what measures council departments might have taken – and if warning signs would have been put at the wood.

Health and Safety Executive inspector David Gregory said Ipswich Borough Council had closed some of its parks – those with perimeter fences and lockable gates – but not its woodland comparable to The Grove.


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