THE Environment Agency has admitted a charge under the health and safety act after a crane driver died while trying to clear an icy river.

Simon Wenn, 43, of Three Holes, near Wisbech, died after the crane he was operating toppled over into an icy fen drain at Mepal in December 2010.

Appearing at Cambridge Magistrates' Court on Thursday, the Environment Agency pleaded guilty and was committed to Cambridge Crown Court to be sentenced.

The Health and Safety Executive allege that the EA broke the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by not doing everything "reasonably practicable" to protect their employees.

Mr Wenn, who had more than six years' experience operating cranes, had been desilting the Old Bedford River with a colleague when the incident took place.

Mr Wenn's crane was carrying out a procedure to move a timber mat when it slid into the drain.

At an inquest into his death, held at Huntingdon in June, the coroner was told that emergency services reached the scene within 10 minutes.

Rescue teams managed to free Mr Wenn's head and shoulders from the cab and bring them above the icy water - but his leg was trapped by the crane preventing a full escape.

He was confirmed dead two hours later by a doctor at the scene.

Jurors at the inquest returned a verdict of accidental death after taking guidance from Coroner William Morris.