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Company fined over death of Fisherman's Friends singer Trevor Grills

Published 04/11/2016

Trevor Grills died in hospital
Trevor Grills died in hospital

A company has been fined over the deaths of Fisherman's Friends singer Trevor Grills and band promoter Paul McMullen.

Express Hi-Fold Doors Limited was given the £30,000 penalty at Guildford Crown Court after being found guilty of a breach of health and safety laws.

Company boss David Naylor, 57, of Bridgnorth in Shropshire, was acquitted on Thursday of two charges of manslaughter by gross negligence over the incident, at the G Live theatre in Guildford on February 9 2013.

Mr Grills, 54, a vocalist with the sea shanty group, and 44-year-old Mr McMullen suffered catastrophic injuries when a two-tonne stage door supplied by Mr Naylor's company fell and struck the pair.

Father-of-three Mr Grills, who sang for 16 years with the band from Port Isaac in Cornwall, had been due to perform at the venue that night, less than a week after recording their latest album. He died in hospital three days later.

Mr McMullen, from Disley in Stockport, was killed at the scene after being trapped from the waist down underneath the huge stage door.

The court heard the business barely traded in 2015 and was essentially liquidated.

Sentencing judge Philippa Whipple said the penalty had to act as a "deterrent".

She said: "Culpability must be assessed as high.

"I accept there was no deliberate disregard for the law but the company fell far short of the appropriate health and safety standard."

The court heard the door allowed backstage access from the outside of the building.

It had been folded in half and was being lifted "like a canopy" above the two men when it collapsed.

The fatal incident occurred when two drive chains linking the motor and the gearbox to the drive shaft failed, causing the door to plummet the the ground.

The chains themselves failed after a misalignment of the drive sprockets.

The court heard there had been four similar failures on company doors before 2010, including the collapse of a hangar door at Shoreham Airport in 2003, after which Mr Naylor wrote in a memo: "We have a major problem."

The judge said: "There was a failure to respond adequately.

"The company made some modifications, but it failed to respond more fundamentally to ensure it had taken all practicable measures.

"There was an obvious risk of death or serious injury although the likelihood was not high. One of the previous incidents could have had catastrophic results."

The court heard Mr Naylor had not taken any salary from his company in 2014 and 2015. He was not in court when the sentence was returned.

Paying tribute to the victims and their families, many of whom sat through the four-week trial, the judge said: "This was an accident between friends as much as singers.

"I'm sure I speak for all involved in this trial when I extend my deepest sympathies to the families of those two men.

"They died too young and I am sure they are greatly missed."

The band, discovered by a record company executive on holiday in Cornwall a decade ago, earned chart success with a top-ten album and performed on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury festival. They also appeared in commercials advertising a frozen food brand.

The band ceased performing shortly after the Guildford incident, but have since resumed.

Press Association

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