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Death at foot of Aedas tower could lead to corporate manslaughter charge

The inquest into the death of a man crushed by a lorry that blew over at the foot of Aedas’ Bridgewater Tower in Leeds has been adjourned so prosecutors can consider corporate manslaughter charges

Last March Ed Slaney, 36, was killed and when a lorry ‘floated through the air like a hot-air balloon’ in gale-force winds and landed on him close to the landmark skyscraper.

Dangerous winds around the base of the 32-storey skyscraper – the tallest tower in Yorkshire – were reported shortly after it opened in 2007. In July 2008 the AJ reported that Aedas was potentially looking at adding ‘fins’ to the building and trying to ‘identify possible solutions’ to what Leeds City Council described as a ‘wind-tunnel effect’. The inquest was told of a series of wind-related incidents, which include a report of a policeman being blown off his bicycle.

This morning (10 February), on the second day of the inquest, after hearing evidence about the design and construction of the building, coroner Melanie Williamson said: ‘I’m concerned there may be an offence of corporate manslaughter by one or more of the organisations.

‘I’m obliged to adjourn this inquest pending further inquiries by the Crown Prosecution Service.’

On the day of Slaney’s death ‘freakishly high’ speeds of between 67mph and 79mph were recorded at Bridgewater Place.

A spokesperson for Leeds City Council, which has been working with the developer to try to mitigate ‘wind generated’ issues, said: ‘We are surprised and disappointed by the coroner’s decision. The police investigation carried out before the inquest resumed was full and thorough and it found that the council had been proactive in recognising the issues and reacting to them.

‘We are working urgently with the developer to achieve the best solution to the wind generated problems around Bridgewater Place to ensure the safety of highway users. This was a tragic incident and we convey our deepest condolences to the family.’

A spokeswoman for Aedas said: ‘Aedas is not in a position to comment at this time as there has not been sufficient investigation to the causes that have led to this tragic incident.’

A spokesperson for the developer of Bridgewater Place, Bridgewater Place Ltd, said: ‘As originally stated, all building and planning regulations were fully adhered to in the development of Bridgewater Place. As part of the requirements for obtaining planning permission, Leeds City Council specifically requested that a comprehensive wind tunnel analysis was conducted to assess the effect of the building on the surrounding area.

‘This was carried out by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and was required prior to construction starting on site.’

An investigation by the Yorkshire Post last year (2011) uncovered a catalogue of ‘alleged wind-related incidents’ which had occured since the building completed in 2007.

Examples of the reported incidents:

  • a woman needed 10 stitches to a knee injury and suffered a torn liver, internal bleeding and burns to her chest from soup she was carrying when she was blown off her feet and into a wall, according to her solicitors.
  • a police officer was blown from his bike near Bridgewater Place in December 2009.
  • a buggy with a three-month-old child was blown over while crossing the road in January 2011.
  • two women seen ‘clinging to lampposts’ in high winds in February 2011.

Readers' comments (1)

  • I believe that considering the seriousness of potential consequences as shown in the above article, that all tall buildings should also come under the scrutiny of an additional independent specialist technical panel (to plans panel) when submitted for planning approval, which can examine in detail the changes made to local environments. I am no expert in these matters but the verbal descriptions attributed to windspeeds in technical data are often described as very much open to interpretation - such as 'brisk business walking' 0r 'inconvenient' to pedestrians - and could mean different things to different people - however, a specialist panel would understand fully and interpret and advise correctly.

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