Farm manager Andrew Stocker and the company Blackmoor Estate Ltd were prosecuted following an incident where two employees, Scott Cain and Ashley Clarke, were suffocated after entering a container which had an oxygen level of 1%. The specialist unit had been designed in order to produce pristine apples. The procedure of “scuba diving” developed where workers would enter the unit via a small hatch in the roof, and hold their breath as they balanced on crates of highly stacked apples before ducking down to retrieve the best apples.
Mr Stocker was on holiday at the time of the deaths, but prior to his departure had left the workers instructions to retrieve the apples for the Marden Fruit Show in Kent. The practice of “scuba diving” was one which Mr Stocker encouraged despite the fact that workers should have been prohibited from entering the unit at all. Whilst the industry practice was to use a net to hook out the fruit, the random selection that would be retrieved via this method often did not allow the best apples to be selected. On the afternoon of 18 February 2013 Mr Cain and Mr Clarke were found unconscious in one of the storage facilities. Efforts to revive them were unsuccessful and they were both declared dead at the scene.
Blackmoor Estate Ltd pleaded guilty to three offences relating to a failure to have adequate emergency plans and risk assessments in place and was fined £75k with costs of £30,000. Whilst Mr Stocker was himself deeply affected by the tragedy, and was suffering from post traumatic stress and depression as a result, he was considered to have been “reckless” in ignoring clear guidelines and allowing staff to enter the unit to retrieve apples. He was imprisoned for two-and-a-half years.