Tributes to builder killed in wall collapse tragedy

TRIBUTES have been paid to one of the two builders killed when part of a barn conversion collapsed.

The men, who have been named locally as Kevin Ruffles from Hollesley and Matthew Skeet from Woodbridge, were pronounced dead at the scene of the horrific accident.

Austin Holmes of Holmes Suffolk Ltd said he had known Mr Ruffles for 30 years and was very saddened by the news.

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

Firefighters were the first emergency service to reach the scene, in Worlingworth, near Framlingham, after being alerted at around 5pm.

A fire crew from Stradbroke was called to help free a man in his 30s from underneath the rubble of the brick gable end of a barn which was being converted off Shop Street.

They were joined at the scene by rescuers from Princes Street station in Ipswich. While attempting to free the trapped builder from underneath the rubble of the brick gable end of the barn, a second casualty was discovered.

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An air ambulance, two ambulances, two fast response cars and the Hazardous Area Response Team were dispatched to the scene.

Gary Sanderson, communications manager for the East of England Ambulance Service, said: “Sadly after everyone’s best efforts, two men were pronounced dead at the scene. Our thoughts are firmly with their families at this tragic time.”

One of the men is thought to have died after suffering a possible cardiac arrest.

He was reported to be lying face down, semi-conscious when help arrived, and his breathing was described as shallow by the first responders to arrive at the scene.

Paramedics and firefighters tried to resuscitate both of the men but were unsuccessful and they were pronounced dead at the scene.

It is thought relatives of the victims were at the scene as rescuers attempted to save the men.

Ian Bowell, Suffolk Fire and Rescue group manager, said: “On arrival, the first crew found that the gable end of an old barn, which was being renovated, had collapsed. Two people were heavily trapped in the rubble.

“Fire crews and paramedics tried to resuscitate them but sadly the first person was confirmed dead quite quickly by the air ambulance doctor. The second person lost his life 20 minutes later after efforts to revive him.

“We then carried out a search of the rubble to try and find if anybody else was trapped, but this was not the case. Our thoughts are with the victims’ families.”

It is thought relatives of the victims were at the scene as rescuers attempted to save the men.

Due to the structural damage and a dangerous working environment, response team operatives – paramedics trained in working in unsafe areas – remained at the scene to assist the fire service.

Richard Jones, spokesman for Suffolk police, said: “Police and the Health and Safety Executive have launched a joint investigation.’’

Kelly Burns, Worlingworth villager and mother of three, said: “It sounds like a terrible, terrible accident.

“People had been working on the barn since July. They weren’t from the village but would always say hello to you in the street.

“They normally finished work at about 5pm - just when the accident occurred.

“I’ve lived here since July and it has always been so quiet and peaceful. To see flashing blue lights and TV crews is just totally surreal.”

Shirley Hurr, who lives in Church Road, said: “What happened sounded horrible. This is a tight community and a lot of people are in shock right now.

“I first saw a fire engine go by, then some more came, followed by police and ambulance crews. I wondered what on earth was going on.

“I would say that the response of the emergency services was first class. To get to an isolated village so quickly was incredible.”