Company fined after brothers’ drowning

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The Wicken company in charge of a lake where two brothers drowned trying to retrieve three dead geese has been ordered to pay £90,000.

Twenty-two-year-old Ashley Yardy, and his 17-year-old brother, Luke, died at the popular beauty spot in September 2011 as they collected birds killed in a game shoot.

Luke had rowed out into the middle of Lake Mere in Stretham near Ely to collect the birds’ carcasses.

But the teenage gamekeeper fell overboard trying to retrieve a lost oar and his heavy boots meant he struggled to stay afloat.

Ashley, a former lifeguard, dived in to rescue Luke and managed to get him to shallow water. But the pair became stuck in the mud and drowned in the murky water.

An inquest into their deaths was held last March and heard how Luke was not wearing a life jacket and had not been trained how to use the boat. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

The Wicken-based farming partnership which runs the reserve, AC, PC and RC Green, has been ordered to pay £90,000 after breaching health and safety protocols.

The firm pleaded guilty to the breach after being prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). It was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay an additional £31,252 in costs at Cambridge Crown Court on Friday.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Peter Burns said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident that has taken the lives of two loving brothers and devastated their family and friends. Had Luke been wearing a simple flotation aid, like a life jacket, then he would not have drowned, and Ashley would not have needed to attempt a rescue.

“Those in control of lakes that people are allowed to access by boat should ensure that life jackets are worn at all times unless there are specific grounds for not doing so.

“That wasn’t the case here, and a jacket should have been worn.”

The brothers lived with their mother, Amanda, in Stretham and were described as “lovely people” in tributes from friends and family.

The reserve, named The Kingfisher Project, was created in 1995 using 150 acres of farmland.

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