Worker crushed to death by crumbling church as scaffolding disintegrated

A scaffolder was crushed to death in a "long-predicted" church collapse – as locals reported hearing what sounded like a "small explosion".

Jeff Plevey, 56, from Cardiff, died when the derelict Citadel Church fell down as he worked on it on July 18, 2017, a court has been told.

Lead prosecutor Andrew Langdon QC told a jury at the at the Swansea Civic Centre that at around 2.45pm railway workers on the nearby Splott Bridge heard a "loud crack" and, "a bang, like a small explosion".

From the church building site, they heard men shouting "run", and telling someone to "jump" before scaffolding around the church collapsed with another "huge bang".

The railway workers hurried across to find those who had escaped looking "distressed" and repeatedly saying "Jeff is inside".

The scaffolding Mr Plevey had been standing on had "disintegrated", Mr Langdon said, and "looked like liquorice, having been burned to nothing under the weight of what had crushed it".

His body was recovered from the rubble.

Several men and companies are charged with offences relating to their role in the incident as the building was deemed unsafe for work before renovations began, the jury was told.

Keith Young, 72, from Llandough, and Stewart Swain, 53, from Whitchurch in Cardiff, are accused of gross negligence manslaughter.

Mark Gulley, from Penarth, director of Amos Projects Limited, who had owned the Citadel since 2006, and Richard Lyons, from Bristol, a partner of Optima Scaffold Design Solutions Ltd are also on trial for health and safety offences.

Swain is the director of Swain Scaffolding Limited while Young is the director of Young Contractors, the demolition firm involved in the work.

Young and Swain both deny the charges which were brought after a joint investigation by South Wales Police and the Health and Safety Executive.

The church on Splott Road was built in 1892 and was mainly used by the Salvation Army until it became vacant around 20 years ago and fell into disrepair.

Mr Gulley had intended to refurbish the property into flats but later decided to demolish it and sell the site to developers.

Network Rail commissioned a survey into the building's condition due to its closeness to Splott Bridge – which was undergoing works as part of the electrification of the railway between Cardiff and London.

The report found the church to be in a "poor" state, and said the rear wall was "in danger of imminent collapse", the court heard.

The report was sent to Mr Gulley in the summer of 2016 and he shared it with all of the contractors hired to carry out the demolition, but not with Mr Swain, who was the director of the scaffolding company, it is claimed.

Despite the report's warning and the "obvious" danger posed by the rear wall, the prosecution says contractors failed to carry out sufficient works to stabilise it, the court heard.

Langdon said: "It was the long-predicted collapse of that unstable wall. Unsupported and dangerous as it had been throughout, it had become even more dangerous since the demolition of the church had begun."

The prosecution claimed no one had taken the responsibility for the project as a whole, describing the management of the site as "dysfunctional".

The court was also told that had building regulations been followed "this fatality could not have occurred".

The trial before Mrs Justice Jefford is expected to take up to 10 weeks at the Swansea Civic Centre.

Two other men, Phil Thomas, from Cardiff, who was Young's health and safety advisor from South Wales Safety Consultancy Ltd, and Richard Dean, of Abertillery, from NJP Consultant Engineers Ltd, have already pleaded guilty to health and safety offences.

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