Collapse ‘risk’ missed before crush that killed five workers, inquest rules

Five men were accidentally crushed to death after the “foreseeable risk” of a wall collapse in the area they were working was not identified, an inquest jury has concluded.

The 11-strong panel found the risk was not identified before the accident and it “caused or contributed to” the deaths of the workers, who were all from Senegal and Gambia.

The men died when an 11.8ft (3.6m) concrete partition came down on the workers at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling in Birmingham, on July 7 2016.

Reacting to the verdicts of accidental death outside court, the men’s families said they would continue to look for “justice” following the “very violent deaths”.

Lang Dampha, the families’ spokesman, urged “immediate steps to be taken” to ensure “we learn the lessons of why our loved ones died” to prevent a repeat of any similar incidents.

Birmingham recycling plant accident
Birmingham recycling plant accident

A two-week inquest at the city’s coroner’s court into the circumstances of the men’s deaths heard from a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigator that the site could have “most definitely” identified the risk of fall.

Another HSE expert told jurors “the wall was overloaded and not safe”.

Labourers Almamo Jammeh, 45; Ousman Diaby, 39; Bangally Dukureh, 55; Saibo Sillah, 42, and Mahamadou Jagana, 49, were clearing out a scrap metal storage bay when they were killed at the plant in the Nechells.

Delivering the panel’s conclusions on Friday, the jury foreman said: “On July 7 2016 at a metal recycling plant, the deceased were cleaning out a bay when a free-standing gravity wall overturned due to gross over-loading.

“The deceased suffered multiple injuries and died at the scene.”

They also found the risk of collapse was foreseeable, was not “actually identified” and “caused or contributed” to each of the deaths.

They concluded verdicts of accidental death for each of the men.

Birmingham recycling plant accident
Birmingham recycling plant accident

The jury heard last week that part of a stored pile of 263 tons of metal ingots had fallen, along with the wall itself, on to the group when the partition gave way.

During Thursday’s evidence, HSE investigator Paul Cooper was asked by area coroner for Birmingham and Solihull Emma Brown if the “risk of the wall falling” could have been spotted.

He replied “most definitely” and that it would have “common sense” to have identified that risk.

Birmingham recycling plant accident
Birmingham recycling plant accident

Before being sent out on Friday, jurors were directed by the coroner to record verdicts of accidental death.

She also asked them to determine whether there was a “foreseeable risk” of collapse.

Birmingham recycling plant accident
Birmingham recycling plant accident

CCTV had showed a shift in the wall’s angle seconds before the structure came down.

All the victims suffered “devastating blunt force injuries” and had to be identified by their fingerprints, the inquest heard.

As the verdicts were read out, the families of the men broke down in tears and one of the men’s widows had to leave the courtroom.

Wayne Hawkeswood, managing director of Shredmet Ltd, which runs the yard, said in a statement read to the inquest on Monday that he “simply cannot comprehend how this happened”.

He added: “I am absolutely devastated by the deaths of the five men and constantly think about the loss their family and friends have suffered.”

Ousman Diaby
Ousman Diaby

Addressing the families, after the verdicts, Mrs Brown said: “I wanted to convey my deepest condolences to you on the loss of your loved ones, who were clearly very hard-working, diligent and responsible family men.”

She added: “I hope the jury’s findings of fact, on the evidence, will, with time, bring you some comfort.”

After the hearing, the bereaved families thanked the British public for their support following the accident.