Investigation into falling wall tragedy

TRIBUTES were paid last night to a “lovely’’ builder who was killed with a colleague when a wall at a Suffolk barn collapsed on them.

Police were carrying out an investigation into the incident and last night formally identified the men who died as 57-year-old Kevin Ruffles of Parsons Hill, Hollesley, and 19-year-old Matthew Skeet of Orchard Close, Melton.

The men were pronounced dead at the scene of the tragedy at an 18th-Century barn in Worlingworth, near Framlingham, on Thursday evening.

They had been at the site in Church Road when an end gable collapsed and fell to the ground, crushing them both.

The former maltings barn is being converted into three houses by developers Elliston Steady and Hawes, based in Great Blakenham, near Ipswich. Last night the company declined to comment on what it described as “a tragedy.”

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Austin Holmes, of fellow groundworks firm Holmes (Suffolk) Ltd, said he had known Mr Ruffles, who was in his 50s, for many years.

“He was a lovely bloke and a very experienced guy,” he said. “He’s been trading for well over 30 years but he was still hands-on.

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“I don’t know what happened or what went wrong. Obviously we haven’t got any knowledge on that.

“He’d been doing it all his life, more than 30 years. He’s always been in the business.

“I have had so many phone calls already. He was well known in the area – everybody knew Kevin.”

It is believed Mr Ruffles, of Hollesley, was a former landlord of the Shepherd and Dog pub in the village.

Gill and Richard McManan-Smith, who live near the scene of the incident, learned of the accident when a dog walker who was passing the house alerted them as he waited for the emergency services to arrive.

Mrs McManan-Smith, 64, said: “He was the first one to find it and was making arrangements for his dog to be taken home.

“I said ‘what on earth has happened?’ and he said the wall had collapsed and that people were very badly injured. It was awful.

“He was almost in shock and he gave the dog to his wife and ran back (to the barn) and then (the emergency services) came.”

She added that people were carefully “digging” away at the collapsed wall long into the evening.

Police said post-mortem examinations were conducted yesterday and had established that both men died of multiple injuries.

“A joint investigation continues between Suffolk police and the Health and Safety Executive and members of the public are urged to stay away from the accident site while this investigation is conducted,” a police statement said.

Any witnesses or anyone with any information in relation to the incident was asked to call Det Insp Andy Smith at the joint Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team on 01473 613500, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

A Health and Safety Executive spokesman confirmed its officers were assisting police with the operation.

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