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Blackpool Council faces legal action after Leyland man loses leg and breaks spine

John Smedley, of Seven Stars Road in Leyland, is suing Blackpool Council  after he fell off the sea wall near Gynn Square, sustaining life-changing injuries including having his leg amputated

John Smedley, of Seven Stars Road in Leyland, is suing Blackpool Council after he fell off the sea wall near Gynn Square, sustaining life-changing injuries including having his leg amputated

A Leyland man who suffered horrific injuries after falling 30ft from Blackpool’s sea wall is looking to sue council chiefs for not doing enough to warn people about the drop.

John Smedley, 36, was visiting the resort for his step-daughter’s 18th birthday in July 2011 when he fell backwards after standing on a concrete sea wall ‘seat’ opposite the Savoy Hotel.

He suffered a string of injuries which led to him having one leg amputated.

Mr Smedley, a former print worker, was sitting on the upper ledge with his feet on the seat.

But when he stood up he slipped and fell off the wall.

As he fell backwards, Mr Smedley was able to grab on to a concrete ledge, but could not hang on. He plunged 30ft to the sand below.

He says his life changed forever when he broke both legs, his spine and smashed his heel into 30 pieces.

Mr Smedley spent months in Blackpool Victoria Hospital recovering from the fall.

But in December last year, doctors then had to give him the devastating news they would have to amputate his left leg below the knee when they discovered it was not healing.

Now, along with his wife, Tracy, 41, Mr Smedley has begun proceedings to sue Blackpool Council as he claims the authority has not done enough to warn people about the drop or provide protection from the fall.

Twenty three people have lost their lives in the sea off Blackpool over the last 29 years, while 13 of those deaths have been at Gynn Square.

There are chains and signs warning of the danger of entering the sea via ramps opposite Gynn Square.

The signs – positioned every few hundred yards –also carry a warning about standing on the sea wall.

But there have been many calls in recent years by those who feel more needs to be done.

The Smedleys are now calling on the council to recognise the dangers of the sea wall and put safety barriers in place to prevent further injuries.

They are also looking for damages in relation to Mr Smedley’s injuries.

After initially instructing solicitors on their behalf, the couple received a reply stating the council considered Mr Smedley’s actions on the day of the incident had been “dangerous” and he will not receive damages from the town hall as a result.

But the couple believe they have evidence to show that is not the case and are determined to press ahead and take legal action.

Mr Smedley said: “I want to know how they can spend thousands and thousands of pounds on the Promenade but they can’t spend money to put barriers up.

“If a little kid jumps up on the wall that’s it (for them).

“It (the council) needs to put something there. You don’t realise how high that wall is until you look over.

“We saw children jumping on to the wall but it’s very high and can be pretty dangerous.

“I’ve been back there a few times and can’t look at the wall without feeling sick.”

Despite the response from the council, received in May last year, the couple say their case is still being looked at and they are determined to carry on and begin court proceedings against the council.

But they must wait until their solicitors have received a coroner’s report regarding the death of teenager David Sagar to help them investigate the matter further.

David, a 17-year-old from Lewtas Street, Blackpool, fell from the sea wall opposite Gynn Square and died in March 2012.

His mother, Anne-Marie, has made repeated calls for more to highlight the dangers of the sea front.

Liability

A letter from the Smedley’s solicitors, Burnley-based Smith Jones, said: “Liability for your accident has been formally denied by the defendant’s (Blackpool Council) insurers. The basis for the denial is that your actions were dangerous and that they were under no duty to warn you of such an obvious danger.”

It adds: “We obviously have arguments to counter this and I will be reviewing your file in the next few weeks.”

The solicitor is investigating other accidents around the area where Mr Smedley fell from the sea wall and the case is ongoing.

Smith Jones solicitors said it could not comment further on the case because legal proceedings were ongoing.

Mrs Smedley added: “We want to begin court proceedings against them (the council)because John wasn’t acting dangerously at all.

“We had gone out to Blackpool for my daughter’s 18th and we had just had a look around town – he didn’t even have a drink.”

Mrs Smedley now takes care of her husband full-time at their home in Leyland and wants to see measures put in place to prevent other families from going through the trauma her family has suffered.

She added: “It’s been hell. It’s been so traumatic for the both of us because the accident has changed our lives.”

Mr Smedley said if he was awarded damages they would go to Cancer Research and also to pay for the couple’s home to be converted to help him move around in his wheelchair.

He said he would also give cash to fund a campaign for the erection of signs and for barriers to be put in place on the sea wall.

A spokesman for Blackpool Council said the authority could not comment on the case as legal proceedings were currently ongoing.

 

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