Belfast Telegraph

Joe McDermott and Gerard Bradley's heartbroken families 'devastated' by deaths

By Cate McCurry

The heartbroken families of the two young men killed in a building site accident in Australia have spoken of their devastation.

Joe McDermott, from Omagh, and Gerard Bradley, from Portstewart, were killed when a concrete slab fell on the site in east Perth where the pair were working.

The 24-year-old Tyrone man had moved to Western Australia just weeks ago to start a new adventure.

His grieving parents Tommy and Donna and sister Lauren were being comforted by family and friends at their home in Omagh last night.

In a loving tribute his family said: "We are devastated by Joe's death. We will always remember him as the bright and bubbly young man that he was.

"We are so proud of our son, who was so well-known and popular. He was so selfless and touched so many lives.

"Our thoughts are also with the other family affected by this tragedy.

"We want to thank everyone who has been supporting us through this difficult time, and we have been touched by their kind words."

Construction firm Jaxon has closed all its sites for a day as a mark of respect.

The brother of 29-year-old Mr Bradley paid tribute to his "happy, friendly" sibling.

Speaking from the family home in Portstewart, Gregory Bradley said: "I don't know anyone who had a bad word to say about him. We can't believe what has happened. He enjoyed life".

While details of the incident are yet to be confirmed, local reports suggest the men were killed when the concrete panel toppled on to them from a truck.

It happened at approximately 11.30am Australian time (3.30am here) and took place at an apartment building construction site.

It is understood the two men were on a cigarette break and were standing next to the truck, which was moving the concrete slabs.

It is believed that as a panel was taken off one side of the truck, a panel on the other side fell off.

One of the men is said to have died instantly while the other may have remained alive for some time.

A number of people tried to lift the slab off him as distraught workers looked on.

Local media also reported that one of the men was just days away from returning to Northern Ireland for Christmas. A friend of Mr Bradley revealed on his Facebook page that he was due to meet him at an airport in Australia today.

Michael Logan said: "No words can express how I feel right now."

Mr McDermott was a former pupil at Sacred Heart College in Omagh, and Mr Bradley was a former pupil of St Joseph's engineering college.

Tributes have been pouring in on social media for the young men, with many friends talking about their shock and disbelief at what had happened.

The A$20m, 11-storey apartment complex is being built by Jaxon Construction for Foundation Housing. Last night concerns were raised about the safety of the building site.

Joe McDonald (below) from the Construction Union in Perth said: "I don't know what experience these lads had, but we will find out."

The union had previously taken photos of the site, claiming to show unsafe areas.

The scene is now under the control of a coroner.

"Officials have tried 16 times to legally enter this Jaxon site and they have been stopped," Mr McDonald claimed.

He also claimed that pieces of metal had recently fallen from five storeys on to a restaurant next door.

Jaxon released a statement expressing "heartfelt thoughts and condolences" to the families and colleagues of the victims.

The company statement read: "Our heartfelt thoughts and condolences go out to the families, loved ones and colleagues of the two men involved in this tragic accident.

"Counselling support has been offered to all 52 employees and contractors who were on site today and also to Jaxon's wider workforce.

"Our workforce is grieving and our focus is on supporting the families and those affected.

"As a mark of respect, and to fully support our employees, all Jaxon sites will be closed tomorrow.

"Safety is our highest priority. The accident is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the relevant authorities, and it would be premature to speculate or pre-empt the findings of that investigation.

"We are co-operating fully with the coroner's office and WorkSafe (a statutory agency) and will make further announcements as and when additional information becomes available."

Belfast Telegraph


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