Surf school owner fined €1,000 over tourist death

The owner of Offshore Surf School, which operates schools and rents surf equipment on a number of Kerry beaches, has been fined €1,000 for breaching health and safety legislation connected with the death of an American tourist on Inch Strand two years ago.

Mother of two grown-up children Jena Hill, 58, from Springfield Kentucky, had stepped off a tour coach from Killarney on the morning of July 2, 2011. She was accompanied by her husband. While he had gone to the restaurant, she had gone for a walk on the beach, a previous court had been told.

Mrs Hill was on the sand, standing staring out at the sea when a 40ft long truck struck and reversed over her, killing her. The truck was owned by the Offshore Surf School. She died “a horrible death” at the scene the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee heard.

The truck had no reversing alarm and neither was the truck’s horn working, an obligatory factor in trucks of all ages. There was an extensive blind spot and Mrs Hill was standing in that spot, the Health and Safety Authority investigator had found.

Nobody had been employed to guide the reversing truck.

Kieran Burke, 43, of Carrigeendaniel, Caherslee, Tralee, owner of the Tralee based Offshore Surf School, had limited means, a previous court had been told.

Burke pleaded guilty to a breach of duty “towards persons other than employees,” at Inch Strand on July 2, 2011, under the Welfare and Work Act 2005.

The driver Rowan Minjon, 25, of Castlegregory, was acquitted by a jury in June of a charge of dangerous driving causing death.

Imposing a €1,000 fine, Judge Carroll Moran said a prison sentence would be inappropriate.

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