Go-kart company fined almost £120K after tragic death of schoolgirl in Barking

A go-kart company must pay almost £120,000 after an investigation into the death of a Newham schoolgirl who was strangled by her headscarf. The company had failed to complete pre-safety checks on the day of the incident..

Ruwaida Adan, 15, had visited Capital Karts in Barking as part of a day out organised by a Newham youth group on August 6, 2021.

The girl, who was described by her mother as a ‘beacon of kindness’ with the ‘sweetest soul’, was killed when her hijab got caught in a go-kart then wound itself round a drive axle and strangled her in front of her friends. Ruwaida was resuscitated at the venue, but died in hospital four days later of hypoxic brain injury and asphyxiation.

Capital Karts Trading, which operates under Capital Karts, has been ordered to pay a fine of £90,000, costs of £29,021.18 and a victim surcharge of £190, following a sentencing on April 3 at Romford Magistrates’ Court.

A Barking and Dagenham Council investigation found none of the karts were subjected to pre-racing checks by venue mechanics, which were supposed to happen daily, while a closer examination of the kart Ruwaida was driving found it was faulty. Ruwaida’s kart was missing a guard that should have covered the rotating rear axle gear and drive belt, which is what her headscarf got caught in while she was driving it.

The council’s investigation found the guard may have been missing ‘for some time’ and Ruwaida’s kart might not have been checked over by a mechanic for over a month. Capital Karts’ health and safety policy and procedures stated ‘loose clothing’ was to be removed and that checks were to be carried out by race marshals before racers were seated in the karts, however Ruwaida was not told to remove her headscarf and wore a balaclava and a helmet over the top of her hijab.

Though there were posters displayed at the venue informing racers that loose clothing was to be removed and long hair must be tied back and tucked into the race suit, the group was not told to read the posters and there was no mention of removing loose clothing or tying back long hair during the pre-race briefing given to the party.

The group also wasn’t told of the inherent risks that could happen with the karts, including the risk of entanglement. The council’s health and safety officers found, whilst there were appropriate safety procedures which were in the company’s health and safety documentation, Capital Karts had failed to make sure and to monitor that the rules were consistently implemented.

There was also no system in place to ensure there was communication between receptionists, marshals and race directors once a racer had been identified wearing a potentially hazardous item of clothing. The company previously pleaded guilty to an offence under s3(1) Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 on March 14 but was sentenced last week.

Capital Karts’ Barking site closed in June 2022, and is now operating at Cabot Square in Canary Wharf under Capital Karts London Limited, another company within the same group.

Ruwaida’s mother, Amina Mohamed, 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 August 6, 2021.

“We express our heartfelt gratitude to the presiding judge, and to Barking and Dagenham Council for bringing this prosecution.” Ms Mohamed said Ruwaida was a ‘beacon of kindness, humour, and unwavering support’ and was only 15 years old with her ‘whole life ahead of her’. She added: “She had the most beautiful smile and was the sweetest soul.

“Ruwaida had so many plans and wishes for the future that will now never happen. Her absence leaves an irreplaceable void in our lives.” Her mother added that she hopes Capital Karts implements ‘stringent’ safety measures so another family doesn’t endure ‘the heartbreak we have experienced’.

She added: “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.” Gary Jones, operational director for enforcement, regulatory and community safety at the council, called Ruwaida’s story heartbreaking and said he hopes her family can now have ‘some kind of closure’.

Mr Jones said: “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 the implementation and monitoring of measures to control risks.”

He added: “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.”

Capital Karts was contacted for comment.

Ruby Gregory

Local Democracy Reporter