Investigation into Birmingham scrap metal tragedy underway as recovery operation continues
A partitioning wall at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling’s plant in the Nechells area of the city, collapsed yesterday morning just before 9 a.m., releasing tonnes of scrap metal being stored in an outside yard and killing the five men, who have not yet been formally identified. All of them are believed to be agency workers with Spanish nationality from the local Gambian community.
One other man was injured in the incident, but was able to escape from the rubble and is being treated at Heartlands Hospital with a broken leg.
Two bodies were recovered from the site in Aston Church Road yesterday, and West Midlands Police (WMP) hope to be able to recover the three other bodies from the rubble today.
WMP is working with the Technical Rescue Unit of West Midlands Fire Service to clear the scene, which WMP Detective Superintendent Mark Payne describes as “challenging and complex”. He added: “It’s a very delicate operation: obviously recovering the bodies as quickly as possible and with dignity is paramount, but we must ensure that we don't compromise any evidence during the process.
“Fire colleagues are here with specialist lifting equipment, and we’re confident the recovery side will be complete before the end of today so that formal identification of the victims can start.
“This is an awful tragedy, and my heart goes out to the family and friends of the victims. I have spoken to members of the Gambian community – they have been brilliant, very understanding and local officers will be working with them to offer support and updates.”
Work underway to find cause of collapse
A statement released by Shredmet Ltd, a scrap metal export company owned by Hawkeswood Metal Recycling, confirmed the deaths were caused by the collapse of a 4.5-metre concrete bay wall.
It said: ‘At the present time it is not known why the wall collapsed, as the wall had been in place for more than two years and had not been subject to any damage or was not subject to any incident that would have resulted in its collapse.
‘The incident is being fully investigated by the West Midlands Police and The Health and Safety Executive and the management of Shredmet Limited and its work force are providing full cooperation with the investigation.’
Payne added: “We are still in the very early stages of this investigation to determine exactly what happened.
“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.
“This has been a very traumatic incident for those who were at the site this morning and we will continue to work alongside the HSE and the other emergency services at the scene.”
More information about the incident is available in Resource’s previous article.