Mum’s tribute to ‘angelic’ daughter killed after head got trapped in lift
Two firms fined more than £1.5m after Alexys Brown died from ‘horrific’ head and neck injuries at family home in Weymouth.
The mother of a young girl who died after her head became trapped in a lift at home has spoken of her family’s “unimaginable” loss as two companies were fined more than £1.5 million over her death.
Five-year-old Alexys Brown, known as Lexi, died from “horrific” head and neck injuries after becoming stuck between the lift and the ceiling of her home in Weymouth, Dorset in August 2015.
Housing association Synergy Housing Ltd, which owned the property where Alexys lived with her family, was fined £1 million.
Maintenance contractor Orona Ltd, which was responsible for servicing and maintaining the lift, was fined £533,000.
Mum Lorraine Brown described the last three years as “unimaginable”.
“The loss of Alexys has impacted our lives and our children’s lives immensely,” she said.
“Nothing can ever bring Alexys back to us. The fines to us are irrelevant. All we ever wanted was an apology from Synergy and we got that.
Alexys was a loving, carefree and angelic little girl who was full of energy, love and laughter Mum Lorraine Brown
“Alexys was a loving, carefree and angelic little girl who was full of energy, love and laughter.
“I hope that what has happened to our family sheds light on others in order to avoid anything like this ever happening again.
“We are now looking forward in raising our children with memories, photos, videos and stories of their sister.”
Mrs Brown, who was accompanied by her husband Matthew, added: “Hold your children a little tighter and love your family a little harder. You never know when you won’t be able to anymore.”
Bournemouth Crown Court heard the incident happened when Alexys’ older brother, who is a wheelchair user, asked her to go upstairs to get his mobile phone.
As the little girl went up on the platform lift she was able to put her head through a hole in the Perspex door panel, which had not been repaired – allowing her to get trapped.
The children’s grandmother, who was looking after them, heard the boy shouting and rushed to the scene. She tried freeing her granddaughter but was unable to and called the emergency services.
Firefighters had to cut Alexys free because there was no emergency key or handle to manually free her, the court heard.
The Brown family moved into the three-bedroom property in 2009 because it already had the lift installed and would be of assistance to their disabled son.
They told Health and Safety Executive investigators there had been ongoing problems with the lift since they moved in, including the doors not opening. By May 2015 the Perspex door panel was damaged and should have been repaired or replaced.
The lift should have been serviced every six months and subjected to a “thorough examination” twice yearly by a third party insurer.
That examination was last carried out in 2012 after Synergy told the insurance company the lift had been removed.
Orona had twice quoted Synergy a price to replace the lift but the housing association did not approve the work as it was investigating the building of a ground floor extension instead.
At a previous hearing both companies pleaded guilty to a single charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Dominic Kay QC, for Synergy, said: “Synergy accepts wholeheartedly its failings. It is important to understand the feelings of regret and remorse felt at Synergy.”
James Ageros QC, representing Orona, expressed his “sincere regret and condolences” to Alexys’ family.
“Nothing I say is meant to detract from the human tragedy of this case,” he added.
Passing sentence, Judge Stephen Climie listed several failings, including a failure to ensure the proper maintenance and repair of the lift.
“No one should ever lose sight of the fact that this was industrial machinery operating in a domestic setting with young children present which should have resulted in the most careful assessment of safety measures and controls at all times,” he said.
“Each defendant has accepted responsibility through the basis of plea documents and has accepted that to some extent each is responsible for causing Alexys’ death.
“Between them I am satisfied that they were wholly responsible for her death and the desperate loss to her family.”
Both companies are to pay £40,000 prosecution costs. Charges against a third company, Aster Property Ltd, were ordered to lie on file.
After passing sentence, Judge Climie praised the Brown family for the “dignity and strength that would be beyond many of us”.
“It is clear the family feel responsible for Alexys’ death. The only fault which attaches in this case as far as Alexys’ death is concerned lies with the defendants,” he said.
“No words or actions by this court can compensate the family for their loss.
“The financial penalties which are imposed in this case are not a reflection of value of her life. She was beautiful, and she was priceless.”