Gamekeeper who ran royal pheasant shoots at centre of police probe after man killed in bridge collapse

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A wooden bridge collapsed, killing one worker and leaving two others seriously injured - SWNS/SWNS
A wooden bridge collapsed, killing one worker and leaving two others seriously injured - SWNS/SWNS

A gamekeeper who organised pheasant shoots for the Royal Family is at the centre of an investigation into the collapse of a wooden bridge that killed a worker and left two others seriously injured.

A trailer carrying 11 people plunged from the bridge in Roeburndale, Lancashire, during a £900-a-head pheasant shoot believed to have been run by Ian Banks, who has previously organised game shoots for the late Duke of Edinburgh.

Locals said the victims were likely beaters who had been tasked with flushing out the birds so they could be shot.

Police, ambulance crews, fire crews and mountain rescue teams attended the scene. One man died from his injuries with a second man taken to Royal Preston Hospital with a serious head injury.

A third suffered a serious back injury and was taken to Royal Lancaster Infirmary along with several others.

Lancashire Police said they are in the “early stages” of their investigation and have informed the health and safety executive of the accident.

Photos of the ruined bridge show its wooden supports collapsed to one side above the rocky stretch of the River Roeburn.

Victims were likely beaters tasked with flushing out pheasants - SWNS/SWNS
Victims were likely beaters tasked with flushing out pheasants - SWNS/SWNS

Mr Banks is understood to rent the land from a local farmer with a source close to the gamekeeper refusing to comment when approached by The Telegraph.

According to a statement on the website of Mr Banks’ company Lancashire Game Farm, the gamekeeper had worked at the 23,000-acre Abbeystead Estate more than 30 years ago and for four years had produced “quality, driven shooting for royalty, including the Duke and Prince Philip”.

At the time, the estate was owned by George Grosvenor, the 6th Duke of Westminster, who was one of Britain’s wealthiest landowners before his death in 2016.

One woman, who did not wish to be named and lives close to the accident on the privately-owned bridge, told The Telegraph: “It’s very difficult for us because people have been injured and one person has lost their life.

“There are a number of shoots that go on up there. Normally when people are shooting they pay a large amount to go and shoot on the land. It can be really expensive.”

Another resident said: “I think we saw at least five fire engines, four ambulances and a number of police cars speeding up there yesterday evening.”

“It seems, from what we have heard, that there were around 11 people on the trailer and they were returning from a pheasant shoot."

A farm worker, who knew some of those involved, told the Mail Online: “A friend of mine is in hospital with head injuries.

A few others who were on the trailer escaped with less serious injuries.

“The shoot is £900-a-head and people come from all over the country.

“It’s very sad, I don’t know why the bridge collapsed.”

Kirsty Wyatt, a detective inspector of Lancashire Constabulary, commented: “My thoughts are very much with all those involved in what is a very sad and tragic incident.

“One man has sadly died and a number of people have suffered serious injuries.

“At this time we believe the vehicle was pulling the trailer, containing a number of people, when a bridge gave way. Those people were then thrown from the vehicle and trailer.

“Our investigation is at very early stages and enquiries are ongoing to establish what happened.”

Lancashire police issue statement

The family of a man who died following a bridge collapse have paid tribute to him.

Brian Harwood, 73, of Penrith, Cumbria died after a Polaris Ranger vehicle pulling a trailer fell into a river when a wooden bridge, supported by scaffolding, collapsed.

Brian Harwood lost his life when a bridge collapsed on a pheasant shoot
Brian Harwood lost his life when a bridge collapsed on a pheasant shoot

The incident happened on a farm in the Moor Lane area of Roeburndale.

In a statement his partner said: “Brian meant so much to me and the people around us. Everyone he knew enjoyed his company. We are devastated about what has taken place and fully support the investigation. I ask that people respect our privacy and allow us to grieve in private. “

Detectives are continuing their investigation following the fatal bridge collapse.

Police were called around 4.25pm Tuesday, January 18 following a report of a serious incident on a farm.

Eleven people were in the ranger vehicle and trailer at the time of the incident.

Sadly Mr Harwood suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. Formal identification has taken place and his next of kin are being supported by officers.

Two other men aged in their 60’s and 70’s are receiving treatment in hospital for their injuries.

Emergency services including police, ambulance crews, fire crews and mountain rescue attended the scene.

An investigation into the circumstances around the incident is continuing and the Health and Safety Executive has been informed.

Det Insp Kirsty Wyatt, of Lancashire Police, said: “Our investigation into yesterday’s bridge collapse is very much ongoing.

“Our thoughts remain with Mr Harwood’s loved ones and everyone affected by this tragic incident.

“We are supporting the families of those involved and working with partners to establish what caused the bridge to collapse.

“Our enquiries are continuing with investigators expected to remain at the scene over the coming days.

“I would like to place on record my thanks to the members of the emergency services who supported the operation, in what were very difficult conditions, as well as the community of Roeburndale, for their support, while our enquiries continue.”