Council fined for Alexia Walenkaki's playground death in Mile End and says sorry to family
- Credit: Kwotuah family
A full council apology has been made this week to the family of Alexia Walenkaki, the little girl killed in a playpark accident at Mile End in 2015.
The apology emerged at Tower Hamlets Council’s meeting on Wednesday (Jan 20), the day the authority was fined £330,000 in a prosecution by the Health & Safety Executive which finally managed to bring legal action after five-and-a-half years.
Alexia died the day before her sixth birthday when a rotting wooden playground swing collapsed on her in front of her horrified mother.
She was rushed to the Royal London Hospital, but died at 6.43pm on July 17, less than two hours after the accident.
The congregation St Dunstan’s Church in Stepney, where the family were regular worshippers, said prayers for her and a special assembly was held the following day at Alexia’s school, Stepney Greencoat Church of England Primary.
You may also want to watch:
The tragedy was caused by wrongly using poplar wood to make the swing instead of oak. It had not been checked for safety by the local authority an inquest a year later ruled. But no corporate manslaughter charges were brought.
Yesterday, January 20, at Westminster Magistrates' Court the council pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety regulations and was fined £330,000 with £6,204 costs.
- 1 Front-runners for Leyton Orient vacancy after Ross Embleton departure
- 2 Jailed: East End county lines dealers who peddled heroin and crack cocaine
- 3 Man arrested in east London for terrorist offences
- 4 Leyton Orient announce Embleton exit
- 5 Thugs attack each other with bottles of wine in supermarket mass brawl
- 6 Tideway super sewer arrives at Tower Bridge ready to bore east London
- 7 Police raid cannabis cafe in 200-year-old Whitechapel building
- 8 Orient announce McAnuff as interim manager
- 9 East Ham man raped woman with his friend in Wapping park 23 years ago
- 10 Shamima Begum cannot return to UK, Supreme Court rules
Since the tragedy the council has brought in changes and tougher safety checks, councillors were assured on Wednesday.
Mayor John Biggs told them: “It was a devastating accident which touched many of us. Since then we’ve introduced changes in parks so that nothing like that should ever happen again.
“We must all accept full responsibility for the part the council played in her death.”
It has been 66 bitter months of misery to get some justice for the family from Carr Street in Limehouse. They live just five minutes’ walk from the playpark off Burdett Road where the accident happened on a bright summer’s evening in 2015.
Corporate manslaughter charges could not be brought at the time because it only applies to senior management failures, the family was told a year later. The faulty play equipment was due to junior employees and a contractor, the Crown Prosecution Service told Alexia’s mum Vida Kwotuah.
“All these wrongs, yet nobody’s prosecuted,” Vida said at the time. “It’s hard to keep fighting for what is right and not getting anywhere.”
Following the judgement passed in court this week, the council’s chief executive Will Tuckley told councillors: “I recognise that no words could ever be adequate, but I would like to apologise again to Alexia’s mother, friends and family for their unbearable loss and express our profound regret that Alexia died in the park where she should have been safe.”
The play equipment had not been inspected since September 2013, it emerged at the 2016 inquest.
The risk may have been identified if the equipment had been inspected and tested for signs of rot and appropriate action taken to replace it, the coroner declared.
But tragically the inspection never happened. The swing was left to rot in Mile End Park while children played on it — and took Alexia’s young life.