Inquiry into wall collapse that killed two men rules accidental death

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An inquest has concluded that the deaths of two men were accidental who died in a wall collapse at a barn renovation at the The Old Maltings building Worlingworth, near Framlingham that was owned by building company Elliston Steady & Hawes.

On the afternoon of October 21 the two men had been working alone on the site for owner Elliston Steady & Hawes  (ESH Ltd) when the east gable wall of the building fell away from the rest of the structure.

On the  30/06/15 at the  IP-City Centre in Bath Street Ipswich the jury heard returned, verdicts of accidental death for both men.The former hearing at Ipswich Crown Court last year in February where those responsible for safety were ordered to pay £60,000 and pay combined costs of a further £20,000.

Structural engineer Barry Potts, 65, from Freston, was ordered to pay £5,000 in costs was fined £15,000 for his part in failing safety procedures leading up to the incidents on site that day.

Elliston Steady & Hawes  (ESH Ltd) was fined £45,000 and also had to pay £15,000 in costs.

Speaking after the inquest, Linda Skeet, of Woodbridge, the mother of Ipswich-born Mr Skeet, issued a statement on behalf of her and husband David Skeet to the media.

After the inquest Linda Skeet mother of Ipswich born MR Skeet the 19 year old killed by the wall collapse commented : “It’s been a long drawn out five years within the courts and now the inquest.

“The devastation of losing our precious son Matthew has left a huge hole in our lives. He was so young and taken before his time.

“The criminal hearing on February 14 2014 emphasized no reflection on our son’s death and in our opinion was very limited within its content.

“The highlight of this inquest has brought forward and recognized our son’s innocence within this terrible tragedy.

“We, as his parents, are powerless to act within the English law to sue these companies that shared their responsibilities within this terrible tragedy, which we will never come to terms with.

“Matthew was without doubt a victim within a workplace.”

She also added that the companies involved contributed to her sons death by “sheer neglect” and “wrong advice”.The family of the other deceased man Mr Ruffles, declined to comment.

Suffolk police released a statement from Detective Chief Inspector Andy Smith, who investigated the incident, this morning.

He commented: “The inquest brings a close formal proceedings in this case, in which two men tragically lost their lives. The coroners’ court has heard the full circumstances of what happened and has concluded that both men died accidentally.

“We are aware that this who process has taken some time, which hasn’t been easy for Mr Skeet or Mr Ruffles families and our thoughts continue to be with them.

“This was a complex case to investigate. After the wall collapse the Malting’s building needed to be made safe before structural engineering experts and investigators could properly examine the site.

“During our investigation, over 200 witness statements were taken, a number of key personnel were formally interviewed and large quantities of associated material needed to be reviewed and this determined that there had been serious breaches of health and safety policy.

“This serves as a reminder to others in the construction industry of the ever present dangers in their work and the fatal consequences of failing to implement appropriate health and safety measures.”

Lesley Balkham the Health and Safety Executive inspector for the case, commented: “This was an entirely preventable incident that resulted in the tragic deaths of two people working on a construction site. There were basic failings in the way the work was planned and managed.

“Those working in construction, especially contractors and designers, need to make sure that construction work is planned and carried out safely. Structures such as walls and excavations must be supported during construction work so they do not become unstable and liable to collapse.”

The incident was investigated by the Joint Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team, in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive, and resulted in the criminal prosecution in February last year.

The Health and safety executive inspector Lesley Balkham, commented: “This was an entirely preventable incident that resulted in the tragic deaths of two people working on a construction site. There were basic failings in the way the work was planned and managed.

“Those working in construction, especially contractors and designers, need to make sure that construction work is planned and carried out safely. Structures such as walls and excavations must be supported during construction work so they do not become unstable and liable to collapse.”

Andy Smith, Detective chief inspector of Suffolk Constabulary, commented : “The inquest brings a close formal proceedings in this case, in which two men tragically lost their lives. The coroners’ court has heard the full circumstances of what happened and has concluded that both men died accidentally.

“We are aware that this who process has taken some time, which hasn’t been easy for Mr Skeet or Mr Ruffles families and our thoughts continue to be with them.

“This was a complex case to investigate. After the wall collapse the Malting’s building needed to be made safe before structural engineering experts and investigators could properly examine the site.

“During our investigation, over 200 witness statements were taken, a number of key personnel were formally interviewed and large quantities of associated material needed to be reviewed and this determined that there had been serious breaches of health and safety policy.

“This serves as a reminder to others in the construction industry of the ever present dangers in their work and the fatal consequences of failing to implement appropriate health and safety measures.”