‘Utter tragedy’ – Builder died after 15ft high wall fell on him while working at Sheffield home
A builder died after a 15ft high wall fell ‘suddenly and catastrophically’ onto him while he was working on a conservatory at a Sheffield home.
Nigel Timms, aged 58, was working at a property on Ivy Park Road, Ranmoor, on March 13, 2018, when around 23-metres of the Victorian stone wall collapsed and he became trapped.
Jurors at Sheffield Coroner’s Court heard he was taken to Northern General Hospital where he suffered a cardiac arrest and died less than two hours after the incident.
Mr Timms was working for Hillside Builders, who were contracted to demolish and replace an old conservatory and remodel a kitchen at the home of Mel Roberts.
In a police interview, his colleague Mark Northcliffe said Mr Timms, who was known as Paul or Budgie to his colleagues, was putting a damp proof membrane down on the new conservatory base at around noon.
Mr Northcliffe said he heard another colleague shout: ‘run, the wall’s going’.
Reading his statement to the court, Assistant Coroner David Urpeth: “Mr Timms didn’t get off his hands and knees. He was covered in stone to the depth of around two feet.”
“He dug him out and he was having trouble breathing but was talking.”
Another colleague, who was working on site, said the wall was around 25-metres long and was a retaining, boundary wall holding back the garden above.
Richard O’Malley, director of Hillside Builders, said his firm carried out method statements and risk assessments before starting work.
He said inspectors visited the site and did not raise any concerns about the wall.
Mr O’Malley said: “Mr Timms was a long-standing colleague of mine and a friend so it’s a very difficult situation for myself, personally.”
He said he had only just left the site when he received a phone call to say the wall had collapsed.
He added: “Following that, I rushed back and we all helped Paul [Nigel] as much as we could and we thought he was going to be fine.
“He was talking and then literally an hour and 15 minutes after that the policeman received a phone call to say he’d had a cardiac arrest as a result of it.”
Christopher Moore, a specialist inspector in the construction division of the Health and Safety Executive, said none of the works done by Hillside would have led to the wall collapse.
He said: “The reason for the wall collapsing was because the forces behind the wall were greater than the capacity of the wall.
“There was unusually heavy rainfall on March 12 in the Sheffield area – about half the monthly rainfall fell in one day.”
Mr Moore said the collapse began at the opposite end to where the builders were working.
In his report, he said: “In my opinion ,I believe the ongoing works were not responsible for the collapse.”
Mr Timms’ family questioned whether the wall should have been supported before the works got underway, but Mr Moore said he thought that would not be ‘common’ in a case like this.
He added: “Because it was a sudden and catastrophic collapse, nobody seemed to be aware that things were in motion.”
The jury recorded a conclusion of accidental death.
Mr Urpeth said: “It’s been clear to me and clearly to the jury that this terrible accident took place having nothing to do with the work that Mr Timms was undertaking.
“There was a sudden and unforseeable collapse of the wall and the fact that Mr Timms’ was trapped was an utter tragedy.”