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INQUEST: EXCAVATION WAS A ‘TICKING TIMEBOMB’

Young man died in collapsing trench on homes project run by his father

The Telegraph and Argus has reported on an inquest into the death of Andrew Lancaster, aged 23, where the excavation which collapsed on him was described by HSE as a “ticking time bomb”. Mr Lancaster died when he was buried at a small housing development site in October 2010.

Pathologist Professor Peter Vanezis told the Bradford Coroner that Mr Lancaster died from traumatic asphyxia after being crushed. He said he would have been rendered unconscious and died within a few minutes. The emergency services could not have saved him.

Detective Inspector Chris Walker, of the West Yorkshire Police Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said Mr Lancaster’s father, had been interviewed under caution adding that:

“The thrust of that interview was that he was responsible for the work conduct and he was controlling the excavation. It was our clear impression that Andrew was clearly doing as he was told by his father.”

Det Insp Walker added that the Crown Prosecution Service concluded there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Charles Lancaster for gross negligence manslaughter. Mr Lancaster declined to give evidence at the inquest and relied on pre-prepared statements provided to police. The statement included:

“Andrew appears to have gone beyond what he set out to do, with tragic consequences. He was single-minded and sometimes impetuous. As a result, I have lost my beloved son.”

Treat any trench as unstable

HSE Inspector Mark Hatfield gave evidence that adequate steps were not taken prevent collapse of the 2.5m deep trench. He said there was no evidence of shoring materials on site and the open excavation was like a ‘timebomb':

“It’s ticking. The only thing you can say for sure is it will collapse. There has been good guidance that you treat any trench as unstable, and if you are going to put people in a trench, that trench needs to be supported.”

He added that the work involved re-excavating a previous trench, a road was still open to traffic and there was also vibration from the mechanical digger being used at the side of the trench, making it more likely it would collapse sooner rather than later.

HSE are conducting an ongoing investigation into possible breaches of the HSW Act 1974 and CDM Regulations 2007.

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