Families of Gambians killed in Birmingham wall collapse reject inquest verdict

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The jury concluded there was a foreseeable risk that the wall would overturn “due to gross overloading” and that the failure to identify that risk had contributed to the deaths.

Families of of the five workers who died in July 2016 outside Birmingham coroner’s court on Friday. Photograph: Richard Vernalls/PA. Source: The Guardian

The families of four Gambians and one Senegalese men killed when a wall collapsed at a scrap metal plant in Birmingham have condemned an inquest ruling of accidental death, saying the company’s management should face criminal prosecution.

Almamo Jammeh, 45, Ousmane Diaby, 39, Bangally Dukureh, 55, Saibo Sillah, 42, and Muhamadou Jagana, 49, were killed in July 2016 when a 15ft (4.6-metre) wall made of interlocking concrete blocks collapsed as they were clearing out a storage bay at the Hawkeswood Metal Recycling site.

An inquest at Birmingham coroner’s court heard the men had to be identified by their fingerprints after receiving “devastating blunt-force injuries” when the wall and 263 tonnes of metal ingots in an adjacent bay fell on to them.

The coroner, Emma Brown, had instructed the jury they must return a verdict of accidental death, but said they could decide whether there was a “foreseeable risk” of the wall overturning.

The jury concluded there was a foreseeable risk that the wall would overturn “due to gross overloading” and that the failure to identify that risk had contributed to the deaths.

Court staff handed a box of tissues around the public gallery as relatives of the five men broke down in tears while the jury’s conclusions were read out.

Proceedings were paused when one woman’s cries became too loud and she was helped out of the courtroom.

Surrounded by the men’s families, Lang Dampha, a friend of Almamo Jammeh, read a statement outside court.

“We are extremely disappointed with today’s verdict and firmly believe our loved ones were unlawfully killed,” he said.

“We believe that anyone who sat and heard the evidence at the inquest hearing would agree with us.”

He said it was clear that their loved ones had “died a very violent death” and that the deaths were avoidable.

“No one expects to go to work to die … It is shocking for us to think that this could happen in the UK, one of the most developed countries in the world. We never imagined this would happen but we now know why it did.

“We believe it was because of obvious and serious failings by the company that ran the workplace. We believe they didn’t really care about our loved ones. We believe that they thought of our loved ones as cheap labour and didn’t really care if they lived or died.

“In our view the company and its directors should face the full force of the legal system and not be allowed to get away with what has happened. They should face criminal prosecution. Anything less than that will not give us justice.”

The men, four of whom were originally from the Gambia and one from Senegal, had travelled to the UK from Spain in search of a better life after finding it hard to get work following the economic crash in 2008. They were employed through an agency to work as recycling operatives on zero-hours contracts.

In a report referred to in court, the health and safety expert Martyn Ostcliffe concluded that the wall collapsed because it was not properly designed.

Source: The Guardian

2018-11-16T20:24:52+00:00

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