Qatar World Cup stadium death plunge worker had 'potentially lethal equipment'


A construction worker's family has called for justice after he fell from a Qatar 2022 World Cup football stadium building site while using "potentially lethal equipment".

Zachary Cox, who was born in Johannesburg but later lived in Hove and London, plummeted nearly 40 metres when a faulty hoist he was using to put a suspended walkway in place broke at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on January 19, last year.

The 40-year-old's safety harness also snapped under the weight and he fell head first, sustaining brain injuries and a broken neck.

He was pronounced dead in hospital just before 3.20pm, Brighton
and Hove Coroner's Court heard on Tuesday.

Coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley found he died from multiple injuries after a fall from height after new work practices, which she branded "inherently unsafe", were introduced.

The inquest heard extra hoists were brought in to speed up the construction after problems with some of the 1.8 tonne metal platforms, called catwalks, had to be fixed, causing delays and putting the Midmac/Six Construct Joint Venture (MSJV)-run project behind schedule.

Recording a narrative conclusion, she said: "The site managers at the stadium knew or should have known that they were effectively requiring a group of their workers to rely on potentially lethal equipment.

An aerial view of Doha in Qatar (Anthony Devlin/PA)
An aerial view of Doha in Qatar (Anthony Devlin/PA)

"(The new system) was chaotic, unprofessional, unthinking and downright dangerous."

Mr Cox's sisters-in-law Ella Joseph and Hazel Mayes told how they had been fighting for answers from officials ever since his death.

In a statement after the inquest they called for an independent inquiry and for the Foreign Office to step in, adding: "We demand reassurance that those responsible for making the decisions that ultimately led to Zac's death will be held to account and justice will be served.

"We want to know lessons will be learnt, so other families won't suffer under similar circumstances.

"Zac was a truly special person, with a huge heart and gentle nature. We all miss him desperately."

Colleague Graham Vance, from South Africa, was initially arrested over Mr Cox's death and kept in Qatar for 10 months but has since been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Mr Cox was one of five teams, subcontracted by company Alnix, tasked with fitting the catwalks, used to access lighting, cameras and sound equipment, with winches before positioning them with hoists and fixing them in place.

But after the 2016 Christmas break, the staff returned to be told they now needed to lift the walkways with cranes and temporarily hold them in place with hoists until they could be securely fixed later on.

This led to a shortage of hoists so more were supplied by subcontractor Eversendai but Mrs Hamilton-Deeley said these were in a poor state of care and not fit for purpose.

Safety certificates were not presented before use but they were still marked as safe. After Mr Cox's death it emerged these were five months out of date.

She also criticised the lack of documentation on the change in work practices and that staff were not properly notified. She said there was no evidence of a risk assessment being carried out but if there was one, it had been "deeply flawed".

The inquest heard friend and colleague Jon Johnson, who was about 20 metres from Mr Cox when he died, first learned of the change to the plan when he was 40 metres in the air.

He was working on a separate team and told how he did not trust the "rubbish equipment" so attached straps as a back-up.

Mr Johnson, who said most of the workers were in the country on visitor visas, told the inquest: "I heard a large bang. There was smoke, dust and rust coming out of (the hoist). I knew instantly something terrible was about to happen. The rope snapped. The catwalk fell away from under him. There was nothing to stop him from falling."

Mrs Hamilton-Deeley said if Mr Cox had followed the same back-up plan the  accident would not have happened. The inquest heard he was experienced but not to the most senior level but had been made supervisor to other inexperienced team members.

She said this was "unfair" on Mr Cox and "inappropriate" for site managers to group his team this way, adding: "The extra burden of responsibility must have weighed on him significantly and possibly led to him underestimating that he now needed to rely on substandard equipment.

"I think his mind was on too many other things and what happened was probably unthinkable."