CRT to respond after Pontcysyllte aqueduct death

Pontcysyllte (photo: Martin Ludgate)

Pontcysyllte (photo: Martin Ludgate) - Credit: Martin Ludgate

An inquest into a fatal fall from the aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in 2016 has recorded the death as ‘misadventure’

An inquest into a fatal fall from the Pontcysyllte aqueduct in 2016 has recorded the death as ‘misadventure’, but even though the coroner accepted that the structure was safe for normal use, he has given the Canal & River Trust an official notice to say what (if anything) it intends to do to improve safety.

Kristopher McDowell, 18, squeezed through the gap between the upright posts of the railings of the 120ft high aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal, before falling to his death when an upright that he was holding gave way. The coroner said “every indication” had been given to him by experts that the structure was safe for normal use; however he noted that the 195mm (just under 8in) gaps in the railings are wider than the 110mm (just over 4in) limit on modern structures and expressed concern about the ‘push pull test’ used by CRT for its regular checks on the railings and about the adequacy of warning signs.

An engineer tasked with producing an independent report expressed concerns about the gaps, especially in the case of “someone with a young child, perhaps in a crowded situation,” and felt that further precautions, such as adding mesh or wires, could reduce the risk to visitors.

The coronor issued an official ‘Regulation 28 prevention of future deaths’ report to CRT, requiring a response within 56 days. The Trust’s Head of Asset Management Julie Sharman said that CRT had conducted a full review following the death, alongside the independent expert’s review and that “both examinations concluded that the inspection and maintenance regime was effective, and the aqueduct is safe for visitors,” and that the coroner had emphasised that it was “safe for normal use”, but that “we will be reviewing the coroner’s findings in detail and determining how to respond”.