Inquest into Matthew Skeet and Kevin Ruffles Worlingworth construction site tragedy rules deaths were accidental

Matthew Skeet

Matthew Skeet - Credit: Archant

The family of Mr Skeet, 19, killed in a construction site tragedy have spoken of their frustration.

Linda and David Skeet

Linda and David Skeet - Credit: Archant

Mr Skeet 19 died when the wall of a barn he was helping to convert in Worlingworth, near Framlingham, collapsed, crushing him and his employer Kevin Ruffles, 57, in October 2010.

The pair had been carrying out groundworks as part of the renovation of The Old Maltings building for site owner and site contractor Elliston Steady & Hawes Ltd (ESH Ltd) on the afternoon of October 21.

Yesterday, the jury at the inquest at IP-City Centre in Bath Street, Ipswich unanimously returned verdicts of accidental death for both men.

It followed a hearing at Ipswich Crown Court in February last year, in which those responsible for safety failings on the site were fined a total of £60,000 and ordered to pay combined costs of a further £20,000.


You may also want to watch:


Barry Potts, 65, a structural engineer from Freston, was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs for his part in safety failings on the site leading up to the fatal accident.

ESH Ltd was fined £45,000 and ordered to pay a further £15,000 in costs.

Most Read

Speaking after the inquest, Linda Skeet, of Woodbridge, the mother of Ipswich-born Mr Skeet, issued a statement on behalf of her and husband David Skeet to the media.

She said: “It’s been a long drawn out five years within the courts and now the inquest.

“The devastation of losing our precious son Matthew has left a huge hole in our lives. He was so young and taken before his time.

“The criminal hearing on February 14 2014 emphasised no reflection on our son’s death and in our opinion was very limited within its content.

“The highlight of this inquest has brought forward and recognised our son’s innocence within this terrible tragedy.

“We, as his parents, are powerless to act within the English law to sue these companies that shared their responsibilities within this terrible tragedy, which we will never come to terms with.

“Matthew was without doubt a victim within a workplace.”

She added that they felt that his death was caused by “sheer neglect” and “wrong advice”.

A lawyer acting on behalf of ESH Ltd said the company was unlikely to issue a statement last night, but may do so this morning.

The family of Mr Ruffles, from Hollesley, declined to comment.

The incident was investigated by the Joint Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team, in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive, and resulted in the criminal prosecution in February last year.

Lesley Balkham, investigating health and safety executive inspector, said: “This was an entirely preventable incident that resulted in the tragic deaths of two people working on a construction site. There were basic failings in the way the work was planned and managed.

“Those working in construction, especially contractors and designers, need to make sure that construction work is planned and carried out safely. Structures such as walls and excavations must be supported during construction work so they do not become unstable and liable to collapse.”

Detective chief inspector Andy Smith, of Suffolk Constabulary, said: “The inquest brings a close to formal proceedings in this case, in which two men tragically lost their lives. The coroners’ court has heard the full circumstances of what happened and has concluded that both men died accidentally.

“We are aware that this who process has taken some time, which hasn’t been easy for Mr Skeet or Mr Ruffles families and our thoughts continue to be with them.

“This was a complex case to investigate. After the wall collapse the Malting’s building needed to be made safe before structural engineering experts and investigators could properly examine the site.

“During our investigation, over 200 witness statements were taken, a number of key personnel were formally interviewed and large quantities of associated material needed to be reviewed and this determined that there had been serious breaches of health and safety policy.

“This serves as a reminder to others in the construction industry of the ever present dangers in their work and the fatal consequences of failing to implement appropriate health and safety measures.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus