A GRIEVING widow has lashed out at the fine imposed on a grain company that sent two workers to their deaths in an oxygen-depleted, carbon dioxide-filled pit.
Frances Farrell, the widow of father-of-three Paul Farrell, (35), from Tallanstown, Co Louth, said the €125,000 fine of Drummonds Ltd grain plant in Knockbridge, Co Louth, was just a slap on the wrist.
On August 10, 2009, Paul and his summer student colleague, Terry Brennan (19), from Knockbridge, died in a workplace accident at Drummond's Ltd.
"I am quite annoyed at the fine," Frances said outside the court. "I think they got off a bit lightly. My husband's gone and we can never get him home," she added.
In her victim impact statement read to the court, she said: "My heart is not just broken; it is shattered."
Mr Brennan's mother Frances Brennan said her son's death had left "a vacuum that can never be filled".
"Due to ongoing casual practices regarding health and safety, an accident was inevitable," her victim impact statement said.
"Due to reckless management and negligence, our son is dead."
Terry's father John Brennan said: "Our son is dead, the fine doesn't matter, they are guilty. Terry would never have wanted anyone to go to jail over him. We have one less at the table and that is the way it will be."
The company was ordered to pay the fine as well as €19,600 in expenses to the Health and Safety Authority, and legal costs at the Dundalk Circuit Court yesterday, after pleading guilty to failing to discharge the duty of an employer under the Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act.
The court heard a manager found both men lying on the ground in the elevator pit but was unable to pull them out after becoming weak himself and collapsing. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) found the pit was depleted of oxygen and the workers should have worn breathing apparatuses.
HSA inspector Vincent Darcy said the men died instantly.
Judge Michael O'Shea said a warning device would have been a "proper precaution and system" for the men and (instead) they were exposed to excessive levels of carbon dioxide resulting in their deaths.
The company has since invested substantially in health and safety measures in all eight of its plants, the court heard.
It pleaded guilty at an early opportunity, the judge heard.