Teenager ‘saw friend crushed to death after climbing into fairground ride’

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A teenager has described watching his 14-year-old friend being crushed to death after he climbed into a closed fairground ride in Dover.

Mackenzie Croxford-Cook, from Deal in Kent, died on August 3 last year after entering the Forest Amusements Family Funfair in Pencester Gardens in Dover before it opened to the public.

He and a number of friends gained access to the funfair and used the dodgems and trampolines before Mackenzie was trapped and fatally injured on a “superstar” machine named Body Count.

An inquest at County Hall in Maidstone heard that the spinning ride consists of several arms with four-seat gondolas attached.

DS Anthony Welsh, from Kent Police, summarised the statement of one of Mackenzie’s friends, who witnessed the incident.

They met three female friends at the fairground, and they began to play with the rides at around 7am.

The boy said that they pushed the Body Count ride and began to get it moving.

Mackenzie then tried to climb to the top of the ride, but became trapped.

“He heard Mackenzie scream,” DS Welch said.

The teenagers tried to free Mackenzie by pushing the ride anti-clockwise, but they could not get it to move.

The boy rang the emergency services, who arrived at the scene shortly afterwards.

He said that he noticed that Mackenzie was not moving and that he had turned purple.

He then kissed Mackenzie on the forehead, telling him he loved him.

“He said ‘I love you Mackie’, and kissed his forehead,” DS Welch said.

Emergency workers who attended the scene recorded Mackenzie’s death at 7.59am.

An ambulance service statement was read to the court by Assistant Coroner James Dylan.

The statement said that the ride “spun in a way that trapped (Mackenzie) between a support beam and the arm of a chair”, and that his chest was then “crushed”.

The inquest heard that a post-mortem report recorded Mackenzie’s cause of death as traumatic rupture of the liver and spleen.

A statement from Maria Forest, who organised the funfair, was read out to the inquest.

She said that the funfair is required to have at least three security guards when it is open.

However, she added that Dover District Council (DDC) did not require the funfair to have security when it was closed.

A sign at the entrance to the fairground in Dover
A sign at the entrance to the fairground in Dover (Katie Boyden/PA)

Luke Shufflebottom, the operator of the ride, said he had set up Body Count in the same spot eight times previously.

He told the inquest that he was asleep in his caravan next to the site at the time of the incident, and that he was woken up at 7.45am by his aunt and the police.

The witness said that they asked him to help them free Mackenzie from the ride, but once he was over at the ride he was told that they would need to wait for police detectives as Mackenzie was dead.

Mr Shufflebottom told the court that the ride needed to be able to move without power, for “health and safety reasons”.

“It takes a little bit to get it going,” he said.

“It has to be able to freewheel for health and safety reasons during the operation of the ride.”

He told the inquest that the incident was the first time he had heard of something like this happening.

“This incident, among anyone I have spoken to, is the first of its kind,” he said.

He said that there was no requirement for the fairground to be fenced off completely.

“Some fairs fence it completely and they don’t allow access, but it is not something that we have to do,” he said.

Roger Walton, the strategic director of operations and commercial at Dover District Council, also gave evidence.

He told the inquest that the council was looking at making a number of different changes in response to the incident.

“The question is whether there should be security out-of-hours as well, to safeguard the equipment and to safeguard those who might inadvertently gain access to it,” he said.

However, he said that they were waiting on the conclusion of the inquest before acting.

The assistant coroner concluded the inquest, recording Mackenzie’s death as “death by misadventure”.

“Because Mackenzie had chosen to climb the ride, he was undertaking a risky activity, and it had the tragic consequences that it did,” he said.

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