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20-year-old Student queuing outside club died when ‘unsuitable screen’ collapsed on her

University student Olivia Burt died after being crushed beneath a metal barrier outside a club

A student died after an ‘unsuitable screen’ used to manage a queue outside a night club collapsed on her, a court heard.

Olivia Burt, who was in her first year at Durham University, was waiting in line at Missoula in the city centre in 2018 when the accident happened.

As the queue swelled, the 20-year-old fell through the decorative panel, while other club-goers fell on top of her, Teesside Crown Court was told yesterday.

Her skull was crushed between the pavement and a metal bar of the screen, causing a severe head injury, which killed her.

Stonegate Pub Company, who own Missoula, deny four breaches of health and safety legislation.

Jamie Hill KC, prosecuting for Durham County Council, told Teesside Crown Court: ‘Tragically, on the night of the seventh into the early hours of the eighth of February 2018, a 20-year-old university student called Olivia Burt lost her life as she was queuing to get into the club.

‘She and her friends, and others waiting to gain access, were standing next to a decorative screen which marked an area used by customers sitting outside.

‘This screen should not have been used as a crowd control barrier or for queue management purposes.

‘As the queue swelled, the press of people caused Olivia to fall through a panel in the screen and then a section of the screen fell, with other customers landing on top.

‘Olivia’s head hit the concrete pavement and the metal bar of the screen with the weight of other customers landed on her head.

‘She suffered an unsurvivable head injury.”

Mr Hill said Stonegate failed to ensure Ms Burt’s and other Missoula customers’ safety, did not properly assess risks, used inappropriate equipment and ignored danger signs.

He said Missoula had two entrances and Ms Burt was queuing outside the lower one at the back of the club for its Wednesday Game Over night, which is particularly popular with university sports teams.

Ms Burt, from Milford-on-Sea in Hampshire, was a member of the sailing club and social secretaries of the university’s sports teams would give out wristbands to members so they could use the quicker entrance at the back, Mr Hill told the court.

He said there was ‘some criticism’ of the way the door staff – supplied by an external company – managed the queues, but Stonegate had the legal responsibility for health and safety.

Footage from CCTV showed queues building up after 11pm as the venue filled towards its capacity of 630, the court heard.

Mr Hill said: ‘For at least 12 months, when queues formed, students were asked to stand along the side of the decorative screen.

‘Nobody from Stonegate had carried out any specific risk assessment of this measure.

He said a nightclub queue is different from that of a museum, with some people having drunk alcohol already and pushing and shoving, but acknowledged it was ‘nothing like a football crowd’.

‘We say that by bringing the decorative screen into use to direct and order the queue to the back door, the club were using it for a purpose for which it was entirely unsuitable,’ he said.

‘Any kind of risk assessment would have made the company realise that the screen could be pushed over and someone may well be injured.’

Mr Hill said the decorative screen was heavy and had already collapsed once, about half an hour before it fell on Ms Burt.

He said four people were needed to lift it back into place.

Two panels had come off it and the structure, which was ‘already unfit for the purpose of crowd management’ had been further weakened, Mr Hill said.

He described the earlier collapse as an ‘important missed opportunity’, and students should have been moved away from it.

Mr Hill added: ‘By re-erecting that barrier, and allowing the queuing to continue, we say they allowed the conditions leading to Olivia’s death to persist.’

Ms Burt and her friends got to the club after the initial collapse, so had no idea it had happened.

Between 11.30pm and midnight, the venue was full and and there were a lot of people queuing outside, Mr Hill said.

‘Part of the queue was lined up next to the decorative screen, and some students were leaning against it.

‘There was a holding area for others arriving, but those numbers were continuing to grow.’

At 11.48pm the decorative screen collapsed again, the court was told.

Mr Hill said: ‘Olivia fell through the panels, the screen went over, others fell and Olivia was killed despite the attempts ofstudents, door staff and then paramedics to save her.

‘She had suffered a devastating head injury.’

He said: ‘The prosecution says the fatal accident was foreseeable, predictable and preventable.’

The trial, which is expected to last up to three weeks, continues.

Credit: metro

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