Belfast Telegraph

We paid ultimate price, says widow after crush horror firm Terex fined £150k

Helen McTeague with sons Ryan (left) and Conor
Helen McTeague with sons Ryan (left) and Conor
Terex GB Limited director Paul McDonnell
Stevie McTeague

By Michael Donnelly

A Co Tyrone widow whose husband was killed by machinery has said their family "paid the ultimate price", after a quarrying company was fined a total of £150,000 for health and safety breaches.

Terex GB UK Ltd, which had a £300m turnover in the past two years, was charged with the corporate manslaughter of 51-year-old father-of-two Stevie McTeague at its stock yard at Cookstown Road in Killyclogher, Omagh, in July 2016.

However, the charge was allowed to remain on the books after director Paul McDonnell admitted a series of other charges on behalf of Terex.

They included failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees; failing to ensure others were not exposed to risk, and failing to make suitable and sufficient risk assessments.

Mr McTeague, of Cairn Road, Loughmacrory, died in the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen on July 17, three days after being trapped when a concrete jaw crusher machine overturned on its tracks. A security guard who tried to save him received a puncture wound to his arm.

Mr McTeague's wife of nearly 30 years Helen said outside Dungannon Crown Court afterwards that "whilst we acknowledge the fine imposed on Terex today, it was Stevie and us, his family, who paid the ultimate price".

"We were, and still are, devastated by what happened... I lost my husband, my best friend. Conor and Ryan lost their dad."

She said the family hoped that the judgment "acts as a warning to other employers that their negligence will have consequences for them and hope no other family has to endure the grief and pain we experience every day".

Earlier Judge Stephen Fowler QC had said it was important to recognise they had lost a "well loved husband, father, and brother". He said: "There is nothing this court can do, or that this court can say, that will take away the loss and pain."

Judge Fowler said that while in his view the company took a responsible attitude to health and safety, in this case Terex "did not come up to their usual high standards".

He then fined the company £50,000 on each of the three breaches of the health and safety legislation it admitted.

A previous hearing was told by prosecution counsel Charles MacCreanor QC that the accident, which had a "devastating effect and consequences suffered at the loss of a much loved brother, husband and father", occurred as Mr McTeague, an "experienced forklift driver and experienced driver of other machines", was moving a red JL70 concrete jaw crusher due for collection.

He was moving the near 50-tonne track-mounted crusher into a parking space using a remote control pendant attached to a control box when he was "tragically crushed between JL70 and the other tracked machines".

Mr MacCreanor said the gap between the machinery was just 750mm, or around two-and-a-half feet. A security guard later told Health and Safety Executive (HSENI) investigators that from Christmas 2015 the yard was stocked with "between 40-50 machines, sometimes three to four deep". He watched as Mr McTeague worked "in a tight space" between machines, when he saw him putting his hands inside the control panel and "then the next thing I knew the machine started to slew round, it slewed round like a digger and it twisted towards my shoulder". The guard said he shouted a warning and reached for the emergency stop button, but by then both he and Mr McTeague were trapped.

"Stevie was pinned between the Terex JL70 and the other machine. I couldn't move. It happened so fast. I don't think Stevie knew what happened. It was a split second."

Mr MacCreanor told the court: "As a result of the collision between the two machines Mr McTeague suffered fatal crush injuries to his chest."

Defence QC Frank O'Donoghue, apologising for the company, said "from the outset that no matter what I say... the company does not lose sight of the dreadful events of that day".

"I am acutely aware that a wife lost her husband and children lost their father who was deeply loved by them all," he said.

"On behalf of the company I have instructions to express once again the company's horror at what has occurred and of the fact that this terrible accident occurred in circumstances where it ought not to have and blights everything that has happened."

But he said "the evidence simply was not there to support a charge of corporate manslaughter".

In a later statement, HSENI inspector Kyle Carrick said: "Our thoughts are with the McTeague family today.

"Steven's tragic death could easily have been avoided if his employer had properly considered the risks associated with the movement of mobile plant within the stockyard."

In a statement later issued by the American company, Terex said it had "taken additional steps to ensure that an accident such as this does not occur again".

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph