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Distraught Dalston family take legal action over Thames wheelchair plunge

PUBLISHED: 07:32 11 September 2014 | UPDATED: 11:05 11 September 2014

Kelly Madarasz with her mother, Edit and stepfather Andrew Furniss.

Kelly Madarasz with her mother, Edit and stepfather Andrew Furniss.

Archant

A distraught family is taking legal action against Choice Support, after a carer looking after their severely disabled daughter lost control of her wheelchair causing her to plunge eight feet into the River Thames.

A distraught family are taking legal action after a carer looking after their severely disabled daughter lost control of her wheelchair causing her to plunge eight feet into the River Thames.

Kelly Madarasz, whose family live in Dalston, was strapped into the chair and only escaped drowning when a passing dog walker helped hold her head above water until firemen arrived to hoist her out – an ordeal the family say was “beyond traumatic”.

The 26-year-old, who has Retts syndrome meaning she cannot talk and is virtually immobile, suffered a fractured eye socket, sinus and wrist, lacerations and blood poisoning after being stuck in the freezing, dirty water for about 20 minutes in December.

The Roy Kinnear Charitable Foundation care home, where Kelly was a resident, which is owned and operated by Choice Support, initially denied liability.

But a social services investigation following the incident found 10 possible failings at the home, and Choice Support has now admitted liability.

Kelly’s stepfather, Andrew Furniss, 48, of Queensbridge Road, said: “To put your daughter in residential care, you put your trust in someone else – and they nearly killed her.

“Such an accident would affect any able-bodied person, but Kelly is that fragile we nearly lost her twice after the accident. She spent virtually a month in hospital and days in intensive care.

“There’s not a shadow of a doubt it had a massive emotional effect on her. Her physical injuries aside, she is traumatised, certainly less trusting of people and continues to suffer even now. We are having to work closely with her new residence to nurse Kelly back.”

Her devastated mother, Edit, has no doubt the incident will leave a “lasting mental scar”.

She said: “Trust has to be earned with my daughter and she has always previously felt safe in her wheelchair. But this horrendous ordeal has left her severely traumatized. For us, this legal action is about ensuring that lessons are learnt so that no one else has to suffer a similar incident.

“Our message to other families is simple, do not give in or accept and always always question service providers, do not worry how you look and take strength from doing the right thing for your son, daughter or family member in care.”

Personal injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell secured an admission of liability from Choice Support – which initially denied liability – paving the way to secure a financial settlement for Kelly.

Steven Rose, chief executive at Choice Support, said the accident had been “hugely distressing”, and that safety procedures had since been reviewed.

He added: “Our number one priority is the safety of the people we support and we have taken steps to ensure we’re doing all we can to prevent incidents like this happening again.”


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