Friday 9 December 2016

Search resumes for three bodies at site of wall collapse that killed five

Richard Vernalls and Matthew Cooper

Published 08/07/2016 | 08:07

Police at the scene at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling in the Nechells area of Birmingham where five men died after a wall collapsed. Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Police at the scene at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling in the Nechells area of Birmingham where five men died after a wall collapsed. Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Efforts to recover the three remaining bodies of five foreign workers crushed to death in a wall collapse at a metal recycling plant resume on Friday morning.

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The bodies of two of those killed in the accident were recovered on Thursday night after painstaking work by emergency crews to retrieve them from underneath tons of metal and concrete rubble.

All five workers were pronounced dead at the scene following the incident at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling in the Nechells area of Birmingham at about 8.40am on Thursday.

The dead are all originally from Gambia, and some are believed to be Spanish nationals, who were working when a 15ft (4.5m) concrete bay wall collapsed on them.

Police at the scene at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling in the Nechells area of Birmingham where five men died after a wall collapsed. Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Police at the scene at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling in the Nechells area of Birmingham where five men died after a wall collapsed. Chris Radburn/PA Wire
West Midlands Ambulance Service at the scene at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling in the Nechells area of Birmingham where five men died after a wall collapsed. Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Video grab from Sky News of the scene of the fatal accident at Hawkeswood Metal in Birmingham

Blocks weighing about one-and-a-half tons each came down, along with tons of scrap metal being stored in an outside yard.

The victims have been named locally as Saibo Saillah, aged 42, Ousman Jabbie, Mohammed Jangana, as well as Alimamo Jammeh and Bangaly Dukureh, who were both from Aston, in Birmingham.

All the men were married with young families; Mr Saillah had three-year-old twins, and Mr Jangana had a baby.

Friends of Mr Jammeh also revealed his wife and children were due to arrive in the UK on Sunday and had not yet been told of the tragedy.

Members of the community said they were hard workers on minimum wage who had been employed through a recruitment agency.

Prayers have been said at local mosques while the president of the city's Gambian Association based in Ladywood said the community had been left "devastated".

The scene at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling in the Nechells area of Birmingham where five men died after a wall collapsed. Chris Radburn/PA Wire
The scene at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling in the Nechells area of Birmingham where five men died after a wall collapsed. Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Ansumana Barrow, 63, who works in Brierley Hill, West Midlands, said the association would be meeting to make sure the bereaved families get whatever help they need.

A sixth man injured in the accident is currently in hospital after suffering a leg injury, although it is not thought to be life-threatening.

Friends of the wounded man said he rang them from hospital with news of the deaths.

Detective Superintendent Mark Payne, of West Midlands Police, said a joint Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and police investigation was being carried out to establish the cause but warned the process could take weeks.

Mr Payne said: "We're simply trying to recover the bodies of the men and do it in a way which will help understand exactly how that wall came to fall down.

"Clearly we are investigating together with the HSE, whether there are any issues of negligence or malpractice that have contributed to that wall falling down."

Emergency services have accounted for all staff on site and said there was no prospect of any survivors under the rubble.

Mr Payne said: "It appears that that wall has collapsed on top of the men and then the scrap metal behind the wall has fallen on top."

West Midlands Fire Service assistant chief fire officer Gary Taylor said the priority was to ensure bodies were recovered "in the most timely and safe way possible, and with the utmost dignity and respect".

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