Father fell 100ft off a cliff to his death on a quad bike tour that his wife said was run putting ‘profit before anyone’s safety’ at a Virgin resort
- Jamie Hulse died after quad bike flew off side of mountain in Morocco
- Widow Sally said guides did not tell of previous crashes on same trek
- He only took part in trip after being persuaded by other holidaymakers
- Retreat is owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition
Virgin Limited Edition apologised today after a father-of-three fell off a cliff to his death on a quad bike tour in Marrakesh that his widow said put ‘profit before anyone’s safety’.
Sally Hulse’s husband Jamie was killed when a quad bike he was riding during an excursion in Morocco flew off the side of a mountain and plunged down a 100ft drop.
Mrs Hulse, of St Albans, Hertfordshire, claimed at an inquest in Hatfield that inexperienced guides had failed to reveal that there had been previous crashes on the same trek.
And Jon Brown, managing director of Virgin Limited Edition, apologised for any ‘shortcomings’ involving his company which had contributed to the Mr Hulse’s death.
Mr Hulse is said to have taken part in the trip only after being persuaded to do so by other holidaymakers at the retreat. The inquest heard from others staying at the Kasbah Tamadot in July 2014 that before taking part in the quad bike trip they believed it was run and organised by the Virgin-owned hotel.
But it was later revealed that the trip was not officially connected to the hotel and instead run by a third party firm named ‘Kasbah Quads’.
A successful entrepreneur and owner of three greengrocer companies, Mr Hulse and his wife had both been due to take part in the quad bike drive after being encouraged to do so by other holidaymakers they had met around the pool.
The pair were staying at the resort to celebrate Mrs Hulse’s 50th birthday. However when they met the male guide they discovered one bike was not working and Mrs Hulse and another holidaymaker returned to the hotel, leaving Mr Hulse riding at the rear of the group.
The inquest heard that as the five bikers and guide mounted a road with Tarmac they narrowly avoided a lorry that was forced to slow down to prevent colliding with the group.
The quad bikers drove away at speeds reaching up to 30mph on the engine powered bikes.
After ten minutes the group went off the road and began to climb up the mountain, despite them apparently being told earlier that the trip would be through ‘low level’ woodlands.
During the inquest the route was described as a ‘steep, rocky, winding track with a steep drop just a few feet away which made it become unenjoyable.’
After a few minutes it became apparent that 47-year-old Mr Hulse was missing from the group and it was initially thought he had lost the group after suffering engine failure.
The non-English speaking guide scrambled down the mountain in search of the man, leaving the group, including two 14-year-olds, with no water or help on the mountainside in the Moroccan heat.
When the guide returned he explained that the father had had an accident and two men rushed to find him as the guide used his phone to call the local ambulance.
Mr Hulse was found lying unconscious in the dirt at the foot of the mountain having been tossed from his quad bike. His widow told the inquest that profits had been put before the lives of people.
Now aged 51 years, Mrs Hulse told the coroner: ‘There would be no way in a million years that we would have gone on that trip had they been transparent about the dangerous route, about the guide’s lack of experience and about the previous accidents that had happened.’
‘We were expected to sign our lives away by them who put profit before anyone’s safety or lives.’
‘I was initially impressed by the expedition because each bike had a helmet on it but when my husband asked for a different helmet he was refused it. The guide didn’t stop to check anybody’s helmet or to make sure they knew what they were doing. He was in such a rush it all happened simultaneously.’
A post mortem examination revealed that Mr Hulse died from multiple traumatic injuries after plunging 100ft off a ‘vertical’ mountain face.
A fellow holidaymaker who took part in the trip described how the roads became treacherous with narrow dirt tracks alongside sheer mountain drops.
He said that he had feared for his and his son’s safety and decided to abort the trip just moments before being told Mr Hulse was missing and the fatal tragedy had taken place.
Rik Ramswell said: ‘I was focused on my son. The route started flat then we started to climb and climb, the roads were narrow, only room for one quad bike width.’
‘When Jamie disappeared we followed the guide to where Jamie was and there I was greeted with the scene of carnage from the accident.’
‘The ambulance was basically a modified car and the man seemed to be just a driver with basic first aid knowledge. He would have been about 22 and completely ill-equipped to deal with a situation like this.’
Witness and fellow quad biker Ruben Fuller described the desperate minutes after Mr Hulse’s disappearance and the attempts to get the victim medical attention. He described the local men as treating injured Mr Hulse like a ‘leg of lamb’ as they loaded him onto the stretcher.
‘The guide left us for about five minutes and then came back looking visibly shaken and with blood on his hands,’ he told the inquest. ‘I went with him and he took me to Jamie who was in a bad way.’
‘I asked the guide if he had taken off Jamie’s helmet and he told me he had. I asked him why had he done that because there could have been something wrong with his neck.’
‘When I saw the ambulance I realised I was truly in a Third World country. I thought maybe there would be a helicopter or some mountain climbers and what I saw was this car that was barely an ambulance.’
‘The driver came down with a stretcher but I made him go back up to get the straps because I have no idea how he thought we would be able to get Jamie up without securing him in.’
‘If it wasn’t for me and Rik, I don’t think the other people would have taken any care of Jamie. They treated him like a piece of lamb – his arms and head was slipping off the stretcher.’
Mr Hulse was rushed to hospital in Marrakesh, about an hour away, but is said to have died before reaching medical help.
When asked what the company had done after the death of Mr Hulse, the inquest heard that all quad bike expeditions had been pulled from the nine hotels which Virgin Limited Edition was involved with.
Mr Brown said: ‘Following the incident we ceased all quad expeditions. There has never been another quad bike trip at any other properties to which Virgin Limited Edition provides services.’
‘Following Mr Hulse’s incident it is clear that some additional precautional actions were not undertaken. This is what I’ve heard from the reports given in evidence today.’
‘The report suggested insufficient duration of training, the route to be taken wasn’t shown in advance and that the tour guide didn’t communicate in English. The route may not have been in accordance to the riders experience level.’
When asked if he wanted to take the opportunity to apologise for the safety failures that led to the death of Mr Hulse, Mr Brown added: ‘I genuinely do not know why what happened did, but we are sorry for any shortcomings of Virgin Limited Edition.’
‘We are truly sorry for anything we did or did not do that contributed to the failures. Kasbah Quad did not do their job correctly on that day and their oversight was with Virgin Limited Edition. What happened should not have done.’
The family, represented by Julian Chamberlayne of Stewarts, and Virgin Limited Edition, represented by Proshan Popat, attended the inquest. It is due to continue tomorrow.
A Virgin Limited Edition spokesman declined to comment to MailOnline today, but the company is expected to make a statement following the conclusion of the inquest.
The Times – Virgin apology over quad death
Virgin Holidays has apologised after a British man was killed on a quad bike tour that his widow said put “profits before anyone’s safety”. Read more by clicking on linked headline above (subscription required).
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