Construction firm fined for fatal wall collapse in DIY store

A building company has been fined €250,000 for breaching construction regulations which resulted in the collapse of wall at a Longford DIY store three years ago, killing two men and injuring two others.

Yesterday in a special sitting of Longford Circuit Criminal Court a construction company, ‘Vincent Ruane Construction Ltd’, was fined a total of €250,000 before Judge John Hannan.

Previously, on the 5th July 2016, the company pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 44(d) of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006.

On the 29th January 2013 a serious incident occurred in the Connacht Gold (Aurivo) Co-Operative Society retail store located in Farneyhogan on the Athlone Road in Longford. As a result two persons Mr Patrick Gaffney and Mr Sean Mulleady lost their lives; two more members of the public were seriously injured with a number of others present suffering minor injuries and trauma.
The fatalities and injuries occurred as a result of a large portion (circa 104m2 equating to circa 1000 blocks or 25 tons) of an internal masonry block wall collapsing into the retail section of the store.
Both men were standing at the customer service counter when a high wind event occurred, entered into the building through an open roller door and exerted sufficient force on the block wall causing it to fall into the retail store. Both were very seriously injured and died later in hospital as consequences of being struck by the falling masonry.
 
The HSA investigation determined:
  • The masonry wall was built in January / February 2012 by Vincent Ruane Construction Ltd.
  • A significant deviation from the original wall specification occurred, from plasterboard slabs to masonry blockwork.
  • The masonry wall did not have any structural head or end restraints installed into the wall to effectively tie the wall to the structural portal frame, thereby giving it stability.
As a consequence of this failure a block wall of area 104m2 equating to circa 1000 concrete blocks weighing approx. 25 tons collapsed into the retail store of Connacht Gold.
Martin O’ Halloran Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority said, “This accident should not have happened. The wall should have been built to the proper building standards ensuring it is fit for purpose.  As a result of this failure a number of families have suffered tragic loss and injury to loved ones.”

In a victim impact statement on behalf of her mother Patsy, Denise Nolan, a daughter of the late Mr Gaffney, told the court that her father had survived a back operation and a triple heart surgery and also beaten cancer before tragedy struck three years ago.

 

On the day of the incident, Patsy Gaffney had been waiting in the car for her husband when she was alerted to an incident inside the store.

She found her husband surrounded by debris, sitting upright with blood pouring from a head wound.

“He was able to tell me that he ‘wasn’t going to make it this time’,” she said.

On behalf of Mr Mulleady’s wife Teresa, her sister Eileen Sorohan said instead of receiving flowers from her husband on New Year’s’ Day, she now puts them on his grave.

 

Judge Hannon said the maximum fine the court could hand down was €3m.