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Maidstone: Stunts UK Ltd and Scott May in court over death of human cannonball Matthew Cranch at Detling Showground

A stunt company director responsible for a human cannonball act which went tragically wrong faces up to two years in prison after admitting health and safety breaches.

Scott May, who runs Stunts UK Ltd, entered guilty pleas on behalf of himself and his company at Maidstone Magistrates' Court today.

The 39-year-old, of Penzance, Cornwall, will next appear at the town's crown court for sentencing. He has been released on unconditional bail.

Matthew Cranch who died in a stuntman accident
Matthew Cranch who died in a stuntman accident

The maximum penalty for the offence is an unlimited fine and a two-year jail term.

The charges were brought by Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) five years after Matthew Cranch's death at the Kent Showground.

"Mr Cranch was ejected from the barrel at significant speed and struck the ground causing catastrophic injuries." — Mark Watson, prosecuting

The 24-year-old stuntman, of Newquay, was fired from a cannon during Scott May's Daredevil Stunt Show.

The powerful recoil caused the safety net to collapse while Mr Cranch was mid air. His death was ruled to have been an accident at an inquest last year.

Mark Watson, prosecuting on behalf of MBC, said: "In a nut shell the prosecution's case concerns failures in regard to the operation and design of the mechanism, training of staff and risk assessment.

"The focus of criticism relates to the management of health and safety in relation to the safety net designed to catch Mr Cranch. The net included a quick release catch which failed and a) was not necessary and created a self evident risk and b) had not been properly maintained, designed or operated."

"He will say he did not realise the risk of failure and they used the trigger release mechanism about 1,000 times without any problems." — Tanya Robinson, defending

He added the consequences of this was the recoil caused the net to collapse with Mr Cranch being "ejected from the barrel at significant speed and struck the ground causing catastrophic injuries."

Tanya Robinson, defending, said: "My client cannot say he took all reasonable steps to reduce the risk of injury.

"Mr May accepts he as managing director and health and safety officer was responsible. He wants Mr Cranch's family to know he is truly sorry for what happened.

"The defence disputes this was a flagrant or deliberate breach motivated by profit or anything of that sort. As far as the defendant is concerned the show is his life and he took matters of safety very seriously.

"He will say he did not realise the risk of failure and they used the trigger release mechanism about 1,000 times without any problems."

Thousands of people were at the venue when the fatal incident happened in April 2011
Thousands of people were at the venue when the fatal incident happened in April 2011

Both prosecution and defence were in agreement the case was so serious it should be dealt with at crown court.

At last year's inquest a jury heard evidence from a mechanic at the Health and Safety laboratory who said he felt the design of the system was not sensible.

Mr May told the inquest all staff had been trained on the equipment.

He added he visually inspected everything with Mr Cranch, who had performed the act five times, before the stunt.

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