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All five bodies recovered after recycling plant wall collapse

Published 08/07/2016

Police at the scene at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling in the Nechells area of Birmingham where five men died after a wall collapsed
Police at the scene at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling in the Nechells area of Birmingham where five men died after a wall collapsed

The bodies of five workers killed after a wall collapse at a metal recycling plant have been recovered.

The final three victims were removed from beneath tonnes of metal and concrete rubble on Friday after a painstaking two-day operation by emergency services involving the use of heavy lifting gear.

All five workers were pronounced dead at the scene following the incident at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling in a heavily industrialised part of the Nechells area of Birmingham at about 8.40am, yesterday.

Two of the dead were taken from the scene on Thursday, while the remaining three were today set to be taken to a mortuary in nearby Coventry.

Forensic post-mortem examinations are set to be carried out on the victims on Monday and the coroner has been kept closely informed of developments.

Detective Superintendent Mark Payne, of West Midlands Police, told family and friends who had gathered at the scene: "We have safely recovered all five of the men.

"We've recovered all the people, moved everything out of the way and we've managed to recover them safely and with dignity."

Earlier, there were emotional scenes as loved ones expressed concern at how long the delicate recovery operation had been taking.

Mr Payne said that formal identification would take place "as soon as possible" once next of kin had been taken to see their loved ones.

He said the mortuary to which all the victims were being taken to had the specialist CT scanning equipment needed in order to help establish how the men died.

Mr Payne added: "The only way we'll be able to identify some of them is through DNA and specialist techniques."

The men are originally from Gambia and are all Spanish nationals, who were working to clean out a metal storage bay when a 15ft (4.5m) side wall collapsed on them, crushing the men.

As the complex recovery operation continued into a second day, the brother of one of the victims pleaded with emergency services at the cordon to "Please God, take him out" of the rubble.

Boubakaray Sera, 56, from London, said he was the "only one left" after the death of his brother, Bangaly Dukureh.

He told reporters he had last spoken with his brother at Eid, to wish him well.

The father of nine said: "He was very healthy, there was nothing wrong with him.

"Then one day he came here and he's dead."

Mr Sera said his brother had a 15-year-old son.

Later he pleaded in tears with police officers at the scene to bring his brother out.

He said: "He wanted to go back to Gambia in October - now this has killed him.

"Please God, take him out. Since yesterday, how many hours?

"We have to bring him (out) - please, brother."

He added: "We are patient, we aren't animals."

The men were killed when blocks weighing about one-and-a-half tons each came down along with tons of scrap metal being held up by the wall.

The victims have been named locally as being from the city's tight-knit, 10,000-strong Gambian community.

Saibo Sillah, 42, Ousman Jabbie, Mohammed Jangana, Alimano Jammeh and Mr Dukureh were all married with children, according to the city's Gambian Association.

Mr Sillah had three-year-old twins, and Mr Jangana had a baby, while friends of Mr Jammeh revealed that his wife and children were due to arrive in the UK to join him on Sunday.

Members of the community said the men were hard workers on the minimum wage who had been employed through a recruitment agency.

The president of the city's Gambian Association, Ansumana Barrow, said people were "devastated".

The 63 year old, who is a factory worker in Brierley Hill, West Midlands, said the association would try to help the bereaved families, widows and the dead men's children.

A sixth man injured in the accident is in hospital after suffering a broken leg, although it is not thought to be life-threatening.

A joint West Midlands Police and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation is under way but is expected to take many months to piece together what happened.

Landlords Maaz Ashraf and Gulbahar Khan said they owned the flat where Mr Jammeh and Mr Jabbie were staying in Witton Road.

Mr Ashraf said they only found out the men had died when police officers turned up asking for the men's passport copies on Thursday.

Mr Khan described how Mr Jammeh hugged him as he told him he needed to move to a bigger place, so his wife and children could join him.

He said: "He was very happy and saying I want my children with me."

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