Capital Karts

Barking and Dagenham Council welcomes sentencing of go kart operator following tragic death

A go kart company has been ordered to pay almost £120,000 after it was found guilty in court for an offence under s3(1) Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which resulted in the tragic death of a teenage girl.

The case was heard on Wednesday 3 April at Romford Magistrates’ Court following the company’s guilty plea at a previous hearing on Thursday 14 March.

Capital Karts Trading Limited, of Unit 1 Rippleside Commercial Estate, Barking, Essex IG11 0RJ, operating as Capital Karts, were ordered to pay a fine of £90,000, costs of £29,021.18 and a Victim Surcharge of £190, totalling £119,211.18. 

On 6 August 2021, 15-year-old Ruwaida Adan visited Capital Karts as one of a party from a Newham youth group on an organised trip to go go-kart racing at Capital Karts in Barking.

Although she did not always wear one, Ruwaida was wearing a hijab or religious headscarf that day and despite Capital Karts’ health and safety policy and procedures stating that “loose clothing” was to be removed and that checks were to be carried out by race marshals before racers were seated in the karts, she was able to start racing with her hijab underneath the race suit provided by the venue. 

Posters were displayed at the venue indicating that loose clothing was to be removed and long hair tied back and tucked into the race suit, but racers’ attention was not drawn to the posters and no mention of removing loose clothing or tying back long hair was made in the pre-race briefing given to the party, nor were they told of the inherent risks posed by the karts, including the risk of entanglement.

The kart driven by Ruwaida was found to be missing a guard that should have covered the rotating rear axle gear and drive belt. Within the first lap of the race the end of Ruwaida’s scarf got caught between the in-running nip created by the toothed drive belt and the rear axle toothed gear, after which it then wound itself round the adjacent drive axle. The scarf was pulled tight around Ruwaida’s neck, and she suffered asphyxiation. She was resuscitated at the venue but died in hospital four days later.

The investigation, carried out by Barking and Dagenham Council Health and Safety Officers, found that whilst appropriate safety procedures were articulated in the company’s health and safety documentation, there was a failure to ensure and to monitor that they were consistently implemented. 

Capital Karts Trading Ltd failed to ensure that all driver briefings included the required elements. It also failed to have a system in place to ensure communication between receptionists, marshals and race directors once a customer had been identified wearing a potentially hazardous article of clothing, so that they all knew to check for its removal before the customer would be allowed to race. Such a system of communication between staff members should have been in place for customers of all ages, but especially for children and young people who could reasonably be expected to be less likely to follow general instructions.

Karts were not subjected to daily pre-racing checks by venue mechanics as they should have been, and closer examination of the kart involved in the incident found signs that the guard may have been missing for some period of time. No daily checks of any karts had been carried out on the day of the accident and the kart involved may not have been looked at by a mechanic for over a month.

At the sentencing, District Judge Susan Holdham, sent her condolences and regret to the family and stated that she was moved by their Victim Personal Statement. It was clear that Ruwaida was a lovely young girl whose life was cut short. 

Gary Jones, Operational Director for Enforcement, Regulatory and Community Safety at Barking and Dagenham Council said: “This is a heartbreaking story, and my thoughts continue to go out to the family of Ruwaida. I hope they can now have some kind of closure.

“It’s clear that not enough was done to prevent this tragic accident and I welcome the result of this case. Health and safety management has to be real and demonstrable.  The quality of written manuals and procedures is irrelevant without proper systems to ensure that the implementation and monitoring of measures to control risks.

“I hope this sends a strong message to similar businesses on how important it is that they implement measures to make sure that they have in place proper systems to ensure that something like this never happens again.”

Mrs Amina Mohamed, mother of Ruwaida, speaking on behalf of the family, said: “In the wake of the tragic loss of our beloved Ruwaida, we are relieved to finally see Capital Karts held accountable for what happened on 6 August 2021. We express our heartfelt gratitude to the presiding judge, and to Barking and Dagenham Council for bringing this prosecution. 

“Ruwaida was a beacon of kindness, humour, and unwavering support. She had the most beautiful smile and was the sweetest soul. She was only 15 years old and had her whole life ahead of her. Ruwaida had so many plans and wishes for the future that will now never happen. Her absence leaves an irreplaceable void in our lives. 

“Our hope now is that Capital Karts implements stringent safety measures to prevent another family from enduring the heartbreak we have experienced. Ruwaida's memory will forever live on in our hearts, and we pray that her tragic loss serves as a catalyst for positive change in safety regulations within the go-karting industry.”

Capital KartsBarking closed in June 2022. Capital Karts is now located at Canary Wharf, although it is operated by Capital Karts London Limited, another company within the same group.