‘I’ll sue over horror fall’

Begun proceedings: John Smedley, who says his life  changed forever after he plummeted from the sea wall seat
Begun proceedings: John Smedley, who says his life changed forever after he plummeted from the sea wall seat
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A man who suffered horrific injuries after falling 30ft from Blackpool’s sea wall is looking to sue council chiefs for not doing enough to warn people about the drop.

John Smedley, 36, was visiting the resort for his step-daughter’s 18th birthday in July 2011 when he fell backwards after standing on a concrete sea wall ‘seat’ opposite the Savoy Hotel.

He suffered a string of injuries which led to him having one leg amputated.

Mr Smedley, a former print worker, was sitting on the upper ledge with his feet on the seat.

But when he stood up he slipped and fell off the wall.

As he fell backwards, Mr Smedley was able to grab on to a concrete ledge, but could not hang on. He plunged 30ft to the sand below.

He says his life changed forever when he broke both legs, his spine and smashed his heel into 30 pieces.

Mr Smedley spent months in Blackpool Victoria Hospital recovering from the fall.

But in December last year, doctors then had to give him the devastating news they would have to amputate his left leg below the knee when they discovered it was not 

Now, along with his wife, Tracy, 41, Mr Smedley has begun proceedings to sue Blackpool Council as he claims the authority has not done enough to warn people about the drop or provide protection from the fall.

After initially instructing solicitors on their behalf, the pair received a reply via their solicitors last year stating that Blackpool Council considered Mr Smedley’s actions on the day of the incident had been “dangerous” and he will not receive damages from the town hall as a result.

But the couple believe they have evidence to show that is not the case and are determined to press ahead and take legal action.

Mr Smedley said: “I want to know how they can spend thousands and thousands of pounds on the Promenade but they can’t spend money to put barriers up.

“If a little kid jumps up on it that’s it (for them). They need to put something there because there are no signs warning people.

“You don’t realise how high that wall is until you look over.

“We saw children jumping on to the wall but it’s very high and can be pretty dangerous.

“I’ve been back there a few times and can’t look at the wall without feeling sick.

“I’m still stressed out and can’t cope with it.

“I’m still waiting for things to be done in my house so I can live there properly.”

Despite the response from Blackpool Council, received in May last year, the couple say their case is still being looked at and they are determined to carry on and begin court proceedings against the council.

But they must wait until their solicitors have received a coroners report regarding the death of teenager David Sagar, who fell from the sea wall opposite Gynn Square, to help them investigate the matter further.

David Sagar, a 17-year-old from Lewtas Street, Blackpool, fell from the sea wall opposite Gynn Square and died in March 2012.

A letter from the pair’s solicitors, Burnley-based Smith Jones, said: “I am sorry to have to advise you that liability for your accident has been formally denied by the defendant’s (Blackpool Council) insurers.

“The basis for the denial is that your actions were dangerous and that they were under no duty to warn you of such an obvious danger.”

It adds: “We obviously have arguments to counter this and I will be reviewing your file in the next few weeks.”

The solicitor said they are investigating other accidents around the area where Mr Smedley fell from the sea wall and the case is still ongoing.

Smith Jones solicitors said it could not comment further on the case because legal proceedings are currently ongoing.

Mrs Smedley added: “We last spoke to the solicitors about a month ago and they said they were waiting for David Sagar’s coroners report.

“We want to begin court proceedings against them because John wasn’t acting dangerously at all.”

Mr Smedley said if he was awarded damages, part of the money would be donated to Cancer Research UK, pay for the couple’s home to be converted to help Mr Smedley move around in his wheelchair, and fund a campaign to get the signs and barriers in place.

The couple are also calling on the council to recognise the dangers of the sea wall and put safety barriers in place to prevent further injuries.

Mr Smedley added: “The council have said they don’t have a duty of care to inform the public that there’s a large drop there.

“We have had letters back from the council saying they don’t accept any responsibility.”

The Gazette launched its Think Sea Safety campaign in June 2012 to raise awareness of the sea’s danger and family and friends of the youngster called for more safety measures to be put in place.

There are chains and signs warning of the danger of entering the sea via ramps opposite Gynn Square, however, campaigners including mum Anne-Marie Sagar, said there was not enough.

Twenty three people have lost their lives in the sea off Blackpool over the last 29 years, while 13 of those deaths have been at Gynn Square.

Tracy Smedley now takes care of her husband full time at their home in Leyland and wants to see measures put in place to prevent other families from going through the trauma she has suffered with her husband.

She added: “We had gone out to Blackpool for my daughter’s 18th and we had just had a look around town - he didn’t even have a drink.

“John fell a long way and he was found on the sand with horrific injuries.

“It’s been hell.

“It’s been so traumatic for the both of us because the accident has changed our lives.

“We’ve got daily appointments in the hospital and it’s very hard work.”

A spokesman for Blackpool Council said the authority could not comment on the case as legal proceedings were currently ongoing.