Trust Cleared After School Trip Death

The families of four children - one of whom died and three others who were injured - when a branch fell on them during a school trip to a stately home have lost their damages action against the National Trust.

11-year-old Daniel Mullinger died instantly when the 70ft timber fell from a 180-year-old beech tree in the Great Wood at 17th century Felbrigg Hall near Cromer in North Norfolk in June 2007.

Three others on the trip from Heathlands Church of England Primary School in West Bergholt in Essex were injured.

Harry Bowen, now 15, from West Bergholt, now uses a wheelchair, although he can walk short distances with sticks.

14-year-old Max Farley and 15-year-old Katie Farthing  - both from West Bergholt - suffered multiple fractures and psychological injury.

The three teenagers were at London's High Court for the hearing last month but Mr Justice Mackay was told that Daniel's family had not felt able to attend.

Now the judge has rejected the claim that the Trust's tree inspectors failed to exercise reasonable care in their task and that the National Trust was not to blame.

The children had sheltered under the canopy of the tree when it began to rain during an orienteering trail.

The judge said experts agreed with the saying that there was no such thing as an entirely safe tree and the issue was whether inspectors exercised reasonable care in the circumstances of that tree in that place.

The beech, in a medium risk area requiring inspection every two years, was twice inspected in January 2007, and its defects were not considered a cause for concern which made it appropriate for tagging and remedial measures, such as branch shortening or re-routing of the path under it.

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