Club fined R2.2m af­ter girl dies

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - IAN EVANS

A LON­DON sports club where an 11- year- old South African girl was hit and killed by a speed­boat was fined a mas­sive R2.2 mil­lion yes­ter­day af­ter plead­ing guilty to cor­po­rate man­slaugh­ter.

Judge Alis­tair McCreath said the fine was still in­ad­e­quate and he would have bankrupted the firm with an un­lim­ited fine had it not al­ready ef­fec­tively ceased trad­ing af­ter the ac­ci­dent, which killed Mari-Si­mon Cronjé in Septem­ber 2010.

Her par­ents, An­dre and An­cia, sat in si­lence in the pub­lic gallery at South­wark Crown Court as the Crown Prose­cu­tion Ser­vice lawyer Dun­can Penny de­tailed a litany of fail­ures by the Princes Sport­ing Club lead­ing up to the tragic death.

He said the club had failed to im­ple­ment rec­om­mended health and safety pro­ce­dures, failed to en­sure there was a spot­ter on board the ves­sel tow­ing the ba­nana boat from which Mar­iSi­mon fell off and didn’t pro­vide ad­e­quate train­ing for the driver of the boat.

Mari-Si­mon was at­tend­ing a friend’s birth­day party at the cen­tre in west Lon­don when she fell off in front of her par­ents, but warn­ings to the driver, Matt Gib­son, were missed and the boat hit, caus­ing fatal in­juries. The court was told she was wear­ing a dull grey hel­met in­stead of a brightly coloured one which might have alerted the driver who was oth­er­wise un­sighted as he banked the boat for the re­turn ride.

The court was told the 11year-old’s death had had a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on the Cronjé fam­ily in­clud­ing her brother An­dre-Pierre who was not in court.

Mari-Si­mon at­tended the pri­vate R55 000-a-term Ib­stock Place School in Roe­hamp­ton, Lon­don, close to the fam­ily’s R14m home in Put­ney. Cronjé, who is the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at UBS in­vest­ment bank, moved to the UK from South Africa in 2001 af­ter start­ing his ca­reer in Jo­han­nes­burg.

In the months af­ter his daugh­ter’s death, Cronjé crit­i­cised the slow progress in the case. The fam­ily have main­tained a Face­book page as a me­mo­rial to their daugh­ter with friends up­load­ing pic­tures and re­mem­brances to the dead girl.

In a state­ment read out in court, Cronjé said: “A promis­ing life stretched ahead of her and she touched the hearts of ev­ery­one who knew her. Her death has left an unimag­in­able void in our lives.

“Mari-Si­mon died as a re­sult of a cat­a­logue of er­rors, all of which could have been pre­vented by com­pe­tent man­age­ment.”

He added: “We do not wish the past three years on any par­ent or fam­ily and to­day’s events bring no clo­sure, nor con­so­la­tion. How­ever, we are hope­ful that changes in the law will pre­vent some­thing like this from hap­pen­ing again.”

The com­pany di­rec­tor at the time of the death, Fred­er­ick Glen Walker, was cleared of any of­fences af­ter the CPS dropped charges against him.

In his sum­ming up, Judge McCreath com­mended the fam­ily’s dig­nity but ex­plained his frus­tra­tions that the com­pany’s pre­car­i­ous fi­nan­cial po­si­tion lim­ited his pun­ish­ment.

“It did ac­cept blame for this ter­ri­ble event but the fine in no way re­flects the value of the life that has been lost.”

PIC­TURE: THOMAS HOLDER

MARCH­ING: Ilitha La­bantu, Sonke Gen­der Jus­tice and the Gar­den Boyz biker group col­lab­o­rated on a “Take back the night” march yes­ter­day, start­ing at Ma­nen­berg po­lice sta­tion to rally peo­ple from Hei­de­veld, Gugulethu and Ma­nen­berg in a stand against vi­o­lence.

PROMIS­ING: Mari-Si­mon Cronjé

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