UK artist fined over inflatable sculpture deaths

Fri Mar 27, 2009 6:52am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A London artist who created a huge inflatable sculpture that killed two women after it broke its moorings and flew across a park was fined 10,000 pounds this week for breaking health and safety rules.

Claire Furmedge, 38, and Elizabeth Collings, 68, died when they fell from the artwork "Dreamspace" in July 2006.

Maurice Agis, 77, from east London, was convicted of one charge of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act at a court hearing in the northern English city of Newcastle last month.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on manslaughter charges and Agis was told he would not face a retrial, Britain's Press Association reported.

The exhibit, which had been shown around the world, was about half the size of a soccer field, five meters (yards) high, made out of plastic sheeting and had walls that changed color as visitors wandered through its maze of corridors.

Up to 30 people were inside the walk-in sculpture when it took off. A gust of wind blew it nine meters above the park in the northern English town of Chester-le-Street where it was on display.

In addition to the two fatalities, Rosie Wright, who was 3-years-old at the time, was seriously injured.

Judge Laura Cox told Agis he had failed to design a proper anchoring system that would have prevented the incident.

"In my view you were more concerned with the visual impact and the public's interaction than the practicalities of holding it down," she said.

(Reporting by Tim Castle, editing by Paul Casciato)