Friday 22 September 2017

Installer found guilty over horror collapse in hotel lift

The Killarney Plaza Hotel where the lift fell four floors. (Stock photo)
The Killarney Plaza Hotel where the lift fell four floors. (Stock photo)

Anne Lucey

The engineering company that installed a hotel lift that suffered a "catastrophic collapse" and crashed down four floors has been found guilty of "shoddy and unsafe" practice.

The lift hurtled down the elevator shaft at the Killarney Plaza Hotel in July 2011 and seriously injured some of the five family members who were inside.

The unanimous verdict by the jury of five women and seven men came after just an hour of deliberations at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee on the third day of the trial.

The Meehan family were at a wedding in Killarney at the time of the accident.

Judge Thomas E O'Donnell commended the Meehan family on their dignity and resilience after the "horror movie" experience from which they were still recovering.

There had been no appearance by the accused lift installation company Ellickson Engineering Ltd, Kilmurry, Co Waterford.

The trial had to proceed with a not guilty plea. The matter had been investigated by the Health and Safety Authority, not gardaí.

Tom Rice, prosecuting barrister for the DPP, told Judge Thomas O'Donnell that Ellickson Engineering Ltd's "assets or a portion of its assets" had been seized by a receiver and sold to another limited liability company.

He was seeking an adjournment of sentencing to find out from the receiver what assets were available so the fine could be determined.

A company called Kilell Ltd now operated part of the business previously operated by Ellickson - but not the lift department, the trial also heard.

In a statement given outside court, Kilell said it acquired the trading name Ellickson and Waterford premises in 2011 from receivers Grant Thornton and stressed that the company was not being prosecuted.

Read more: 'It was like a horror movie' - Family's terror after hotel lift plunged through four floors

Ellickson Engineering Ltd was tried for a single count of a breach of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act to do with the installation at the hotel in and around April 2004.

The Daldoss Easy Life Lift was installed into what was an existing building because of space constraints.

It had special features for a refuge space so it could be safely maintained, the trial heard.

However, wiring, brackets and switches in the electrics for the lift had not been installed, lift specialist Simon Nicholas Lancaster said.

It was "an unsafe and hazardous" environment for workmen.

Anyone working on a breakdown of the lift "could potentially be crushed" should the lift move, he said. The lift could never be properly inspected.

On July 9, 2011, at around 2pm the main sheave house collapsed as the lift approached the fourth level of the hotel.

The Meehan family were trapped inside. They had been coming from the wedding ceremony of a cousin at St Mary's Cathedral and were going for a quick bite to eat, before going on to the wedding reception at another hotel.

Paul Meehan, a garda, said his life flashed in front of him.

It was like "living in a horror movie", he said.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News