Club fined R2.2m after girl dies
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.”
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