'Signs of decay and neglect' on debris which caused Storm Doris death


A wooden water tank cover which struck and killed a pedestrian during Storm Doris showed signs of neglect and decay, a coroner has been told.

An inquest into the death of Tahnie Martin heard environmental health officers are investigating the maintenance schedule for the cover, which caused the 29-year-old fatal head injuries.

Ms Martin, from Stafford, was pronounced dead near Wolverhampton's Mander Centre shopping mall on Thursday last week after being hit by a two-metre-long piece of timber amid high winds.

Giving evidence to the Black Country Coroner's Court, Detective Sergeant John Garbett, of West Midlands Police, said officers had recovered CCTV footage showing the moment the object fell from a roof and hit Miss Martin.

A joint inquiry with the Health and Safety Executive and Wolverhampton City Council established the cover was thought to have been attached to one of two brick structures on the uppermost roof of the Mander Centre, Mr Garbett said.

The officer told coroner Zafar Siddique wooden covers were held onto both structures, containing disused cast-iron header tanks, by metal hasps.

A small part of the cover which struck Miss Martin during the "extreme weather event" broke off before she was hit, the inquest heard, while a second cover is believed to have been blown onto a lower roof.

Mr Garbett told the hearing: "Our inquiries on the day established that there was CCTV footage of the moment that this item struck Miss Martin.

"The debris that struck Miss Martin shows signs of decay and neglect.

"There are certain inquiries being made by the environmental heath department in relation to the maintenance schedule.

"We have had a meeting with our colleagues at the Health and Safety Executive and environmental health officers will be taking primacy in this investigation."

During brief evidence to the inquest, the officer confirmed formal contact had not yet been made with the owner of the building.

Adjourning the inquest until April, Mr Siddique offered his condolences to Miss Martin's family and described her death as an "absolutely tragic set of circumstances".

Solihull-born Miss Martin, who worked at the University of Wolverhampton, was struck by the cover while walking near a Starbucks cafe in Dudley Street.

A woman who was with Miss Martin suffered a leg injury in a fall but is not thought to have been struck by debris.

In a tribute issued last week, the University of Wolverhampton's vice-chancellor, Professor Geoff Layer, said: "During Tahnie's short time at the university, she made a real impact both in a professional and personal capacity."

A man aged in his 80s died in hospital after being injured when a tree fell onto a car near Church Stretton in Shopshire during Storm Doris, which generated winds of up to 94mph.