COUNCIL chiefs have been slammed for ignoring repeated warnings about a rotting flagpole in the 18 months before it collapsed and crushed a toddler.
Two-year-old River Webster suffered a cracked skull, bleeding on the brain and a broken foot when the 18ft pole, in Otley memorial garden, fell on her on March 31 last year.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said it was “pure luck” she wasn’t killed.
Leeds City Council, which yesterday pleaded guilty at Leeds Magistrates’ Court to breaching health and safety law, is now facing a heavy fine.
HSE prosecutor Julian Franklin said: “It is pure luck that this young child wasn’t killed.
“It was an incident that was easily preventable. The fact that the structure was rotting at the base had been raised by staff with managers on several occasions over the previous two years, but it seems the warnings were either not heard or not heeded.”
The court heard River was playing in the memorial garden, on Bondgate, with her mum, Charlotte Hodge, when the pole collapsed on her head.
She was in hospital for a week and is likely to need regular x-rays and check-ups until she is at least five.
Mr Franklin said investigations revealed the council had “ample warning” about the condition of the flagpole.
As early as November 2010 a maintenance inspection revealed it was rotting. The council’s bereavement service was told but took no action and ignored further warnings in May and November 2011.
Gill Marshall, for the council, apologised to the family and said procedures had been tightened since the incident.
“The council has worked very hard to make sure the system is robust,” she added.
Magistrates’ chairman Philip Atkinson said: “Adequate procedures have now been put in place, but that was after the event and may be of little consolation to River and her family.”
The council will be sentenced at Leeds Crown Court, which can impose higher fines than the magistrates’ maximum fine of £20,000.