Blackpool mum and daughter in lift crush drama

JD Sports at Deepdale
JD Sports at Deepdale

A Blackpool mum and her baby were moments from being crushed to death in a terrifying accident in a shop lift.

A Blackpool mum and her baby were moments from being crushed to death in a terrifying accident in a shop lift.

The lift

The lift

Hayley Melling had asked for assistance to reach the first floor at JD Sports at Deepdale Retail Park in Preston, with her one-year-old daughter.

But the pair were let into the lift shaft as another mum was coming down in the lift with her children, Preston Crown Court heard.

The terrified mum desperately pushed the lift upwards as horrified shoppers Terence Gargan and Martin Coe worked together to force the metal and glass lift door open to release them.

JD Sports Fashion Ltd has been fined £66,667 and ordered to pay £13,896.25 costs and a £100 surcharge.

This was undoubtedly a very unpleasant and distressing incident

Preston Crown Court heard a safety mechanism meant the door to the lift would not open if it was already in use. However, a member of staff obtained the override key and unlocked the door, allowing Miss Melling, into the space with her pushchair during the incident in September 2012.

Sophie Cartwright, prosecuting, said: “But for the intervention of other shoppers it is highly probable that Hayley Melling and her infant daughter would have sustained fatal or serious injuries.”

She described a number of safety failures including two faults with the lift being reported almost a year earlier in 2011 – including an intermittent fault with the door lock at ground level – but no repairs were undertaken.

A HM Specialist Inspector found the employee had “defeated one of the normal safeguards” on the lift by using the override key and staff were routinely using the emergency release key to “circumvent the faults present”.

Preston City Council’s environmental health team brought a prosecution against the shop under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Defending, David Travers said: “This was undoubtedly a very unpleasant and distressing incident.

“The company profoundly regrets the terrifying experience for Miss Melling and has taken this incident very seriously.

“There is testimony of that not just by the steps subsequently taken but by the presence in court of all the senior people in the company who relate to health and safety.”

Judge Pamela Badley, sentencing, said: “Miss Melling did what she could to call for help - you can imagine the rising sense of panic at that time. Fortunately other members of public were able to force open the lift access door and I’m sure everybody is very grateful to those individuals.

“Had it not been for intervention of other shoppers its highly probable they would have sustained terrible injuries, in fact the whole episode was.”

She said the “sloppy practice” of staff using the override key, which was supposed to be for emergency situations, because they believed the door was sticking had given rise to “inherent dangers”.

But she acknowledged the firm, which otherwise has a good safety record, had since put into place better practices.

A spokesman for J D Sports said: “ We deeply regret the incident and apologise for the distress caused. Following the incident, JD Sports undertook a thorough review of its health and safety protocols and implemented changes to the processes and systems within its store.”