Friday 15 December 2017

Engineering company fined €750k after lift carrying wedding guests collapsed four storeys

Killarney Plaza Hotel
Killarney Plaza Hotel

Anne Lucey

An engineering company involved in lift installation has been fined €750,000 after a hotel lift catastrophically collapsed seven years after it had been installed.

And a file is being referred back to the DPP to go see if there can be further prosecution.

The lift, which was carrying a family of guests for a wedding party, suddenly dropped four storeys at the Killarney Plaza Hotel on July 9, 2011.

Those in the lift, three of whom were gardaí, have suffered ongoing injuries as a result of the incident.

It was an accident waiting to happen, and was the result of historic damage incurred from the time of its installation, the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee heard. Ellickson Engineering Ltd, who installed and maintained the lift for several years, once had assets worth €8m.

However, the company had gone into receivership a short time before the disastrous collapse and now the company has "effectively nothing", the court heard.

The company was found guilty last March of a breach of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act to do with the installation of the lift 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, from Meath and Dublin, were trapped inside the lift carriage during the ordeal.

Judge Thomas E O'Donnell noted the charge related to the installation in 2004 - not the "appalling" injuries the Meehan family had received in 2011.

There had been no appearance, legal or otherwise, by Ellickson Engineering Ltd, of Kilmurry, Co Waterford. Under company law, therefore, the trial had to proceed with a not guilty plea. The case had been adjourned to yesterday to determine what assets were available so the fine could be determined, Jude O'Donnell noted.

Judge O'Donnell paid tribute to the Meehan family and said their injuries were ongoing. He noted they were pursuing civil claims against a number of parties.

The court was conscious the prosecution was against a company, a separate legal entity. However he was asking that the file be referred back to the DPP "to go behind the veil of incorporation given the very serious breach and the very serious injuries which ensued".

He imposed a €750,000 fine with three months to pay.

Irish Independent

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