Man crushed to death in accident at work by falling wall

Adam Gosling was crushed to death by a falling wall that he had been ordered to prop up. A court heard how Adam died instantly from massive head injuries as his horrified 18-year-old brother Dean looked on.

Adam and his brother were both employed by Colin Holtom as casual labourers and were working in the grounds of a five-bedroom house in Hadley Wood, north London when the accident happened in April 2007. Holtom, of Meadow Way, Latchingdon, Essex is on trial for manslaughter by gross negligence.

The jury at the Old Bailey heard how Adam and Dean had been left unsupervised to knock down a seven metre high wall, by Holtom. They were told that he had never provided safety equipment such as hard hats, protective boots, and safety goggles and when asked to do so by one employee, he suggested that he buy them for himself. Darren Fowler, who had subcontracted the work to Holtom, had recognised that the wall was unstable and instructed Holtom that the wall must only be taken down brick by brick.

Dean insists that he and his brother received no such instruction, but instead were provided with only a sledgehammer and pneumatic hammer to carry out the task by Holtom. Dean told the jury that as they began taking the wall down it suddenly began to lean towards the rear garden, at which point Dean grabbed hold of the wall and Adam ran off to get further instructions from Holtom

Prosecutor Martin Bowyer said in court: “According to Dean, when Adam came back, he said that he had been told by Colin Holtom to go into the neighbours garden and push the wall back, as they had been told not to let the wall fall. Whatever instruction Colin Holtom gave to Adam Gosling, he did not in fact go back himself to see what was going on. Adam then jumped over a small fence into the rear garden and attempted to prop up the wall while his older brother was trying to pull it back. Then tragically it toppled towards Adam, splitting in the middle, and fell on top of him. Dean was utterly distraught. He leapt over the wall and tried to push it back but realised he didn’t have the strength. He ran to find Colin Holtom to tell him what happened and they both ran back. Colin Holton said words to the effect of ‘stupid idiot, what was he doing behind there?’ to which Dean replied ‘don’t lie now’.”

It was said that Adam was not an academic and had given up on full-time education, but was a hard worker and had decided to join his older brothers working as a casual labourer for Holtom. Mr Bowyer told the jury that at his age Adam should not have been allowed to carry out such work, for which he was earning £25 a day.

He said: “Mr Holtom left Adam Gosling in a situation that exposed him to obvious risk of harm when he owed him a duty of care not to do that. What Colin Holtom did that day in the circumstances was not just irresponsible it was negligent to the point at which you the jury should ask whether his conduct was in fact criminal. This case is not about the nanny state or red tape but a gross dereliction of a duty of care to a 15-year-old boy working in a situation he should never have been exposed to. Colin Holtom was not present when the wall collapsed. Had he been present, as he should have been, we say Adam might have been alive today.”

Holtom denies manslaughter as well as a charge under the Health and Safety Act, and the trial continues.


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