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    Two killed after giant inflatable artwork is blown away

    Date: 25 Jul 2006 | | Views: 5328

    Two women were killed and 13 people injured when an inflatable sculpture was blown 70ft into the air by a gust of wind.

    The women, aged 68 and 38, had been on the sculpture with 30 other children and adults when it broke from its mooring and flew into the air, drifting for about 200ft before colliding with a metal CCTV post.

    The collision brought the artwork a multi-coloured complex of interconnected rooms called Dreamspace back to the ground, preventing more casualties.

    Durham Police said the accident occurred at 3.30pm yesterday at the Riverside Park, Chester-le-Street, close to Durham County Cricket Club.

    The two women received emergency treatment but died on their way to University Hospital Durham. Police said the 68-year-old was from Seaham, Co Durham, and the 38-year-old from Chester-le-Street.

    Six ambulances ferried the injured to a number of hospitals in the north east, including the Newcastle General Hospital, where a three-year-old girl underwent surgery and was said to be in a serious condition last night.

    A woman whose 23-year-old daughter suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs and internal bleeding, said her family had been enjoying a day at the park. The woman, who did not want to be named, said: "She's in the intensive care unit on a ventilator.

    "It was just a day out enjoying the weather, and it's gone so badly wrong."

    Three other children, between 8 and 11, suffered neck, leg and arm injuries. An 11-year-old girl was also taken to hospital suffering from shock and a 13-year-old girl was taken to South Tyneside General Hospital with minor injuries. An elderly woman and a 35-year-old man both had heart attacks, according to the North East Ambulance Service.

    Richard Gordon, 22, a quantity surveyor, said: "I was standing next to it when I heard a 'snap' sound as the holding ropes were ripped out of the ground.

    "I could hear people inside screaming as it flipped on its side, went into the air and started gaining speed. We tried to grab hold to try to stop it, but it was going with such force it just dragged us along."

    Chief Superintendent Trevor Watson, from Durham Police, said: "We are working with the Health and Safety Executive to try and establish the cause. I'm sure any individual caught up in the situation would have been frightened and terrified by the final consequences, as were people on the ground."

    The Dreamspace installation was designed by Maurice Agis, 74, a renowned abstract artist who was at the scene yesterday. The structure is made from thin PVC sheets forming 115 multi-coloured inflated rooms and is about half the size of a football pitch. Visitors pay £5 to enter and wear a cape. Music composed by Stephen Montague plays out of hidden speakers.

    The first Dreamspace was displayed in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1996, and various versions have since been exhibited in Italy, Spain and around the UK.

    Last month, while in Liverpool, knife-wielding vandals slashed three of the PVC pods.

    Dreamspace had been due to stay in Chester-le-Street until 30 July before moving to London's Victoria Park. It opened to the public only yesterday.

    By Thair Shaikh, The Independent (UK)

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