Family sue over boy's sculpture accident

THE FAMILY of a youngster whose foot was crushed by a 12-stone sculpture near a children's play park are battling for compensation - after winning a payout when his brother was injured in a freak accident just yards away.

John McAlpine was playing football on grass near his home on Lammermuir Crescent in Haddington when the huge steel Nungate Wheel sculpture fell over, trapping his foot.

This week East Lothian Council was fined 6000 at Haddington Sheriff Court after pleading guilty to breaching health and safety legislation by failing to ensure the sculpture was routinely inspected and maintained.

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John, now seven, spent six weeks with his foot in plaster following the accident in January last year and faces a further operation to correct the damage when he is older, with the family now pursuing damages from the council.

They have already won 2200 from the council after John's brother Jamie lost the tips of his fingers nearby in 2004. Jamie, now 19, trapped his hand in a spring-loaded gate at the play park.

John's mum Michelle, 37, said: "We have got a claim in for compensation through our own lawyer but we haven't heard back yet. We have no idea how long it will take or how much it will be."

Mrs McAlpine added: "I was quite chuffed with the 6000 fine. I thought the council would only get fined around 1500. The main thing for us was that the council pleaded guilty; to say they were at fault is all we were looking for."

The St Mary's RC Primary pupil had been playing football with his older brother Jack, now nine, and cousin Jason Demarco, 19, at the time. His injuries were so severe that doctors were unable to pin the shattered bones in his little toe together after the steel sculpture came crashing down breaking his metatarsal and causing multiple fractures.

The Nungate Wheel sculpture was installed by East Lothian Council on Lammermuir Crescent in June 2000 as a tribute to the people who have lived in the ancient part of Haddington.

But an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that there was no person or department within the council with overall responsibility for the inspection and maintenance of sculptures in the area.

A specialist metallurgical report carried out as part of the investigation revealed that the sculpture had been considerably weakened due to a fatigue fracture that had developed over a number of years, which was consistent with people swinging or rocking it.

John, still attends the Sick Kids Hospital every three months because the bone in his little toe hasn't healed properly.

Stay-at-home mum Mrs McAlpine said: "He still has major issues with his foot. He goes through about four pairs of socks in the morning before he decides what socks are the comfiest, and shoes are a nightmare because his pinky toe sticks up and out. Sometimes he can't feel his toes - it's like arthritis. No amount of compensation will take that away."

Meanwhile, a council spokesman said the local authority had co-operated fully with the Health and Safety Executive following the accident and removed the sculpture permanently. He added: "The council has now put in place an inspection and maintenance programme and a register of artworks which will be administered by the community services department, which will also carry out regular checks at least once a year on all public works of art."