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Builder was killed by falling window pane, inquest hears

Friend and colleague gives harrowing details of moment Andrew Lowne was hit by glass sheet

02 March, 2017 — By Tom Foot

AN inquest into the death of a construction worker who died when a window toppled on him has heard that safety straps may not have been properly fitted.

Andrew Lowne, 51, from Munster Square, Regent’s Park, was crushed by a 600-kilo pane of glass that was being unpacked on the roof of a 17-storey block he was working on in Paddington.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court, in the Royal Courts of Justice, heard how the panel had been built and packaged in Switzerland and was delivered to the site run by Wates Construction. Mr Lowne was working as a “banksman” and had to unpack the two-and-a-half metre window, remove “banding” safety straps and attach it to a crane that hoisted the panels into position.

He had worked on hundreds of windows over several months before the tragedy in June 2015, the inquest heard. Site manager Brian Baker, a long-term friend of Mr Lowne, said the “only logical thing that makes sense is that it wasn’t banded properly”.

In harrowing evidence to the court, Mr Baker recalled the moment the window fell: “I saw it falling – it took one or two seconds – there was not enough time to shout out. I saw Andrew walking towards me. He was hit on the left side. He wasn’t looking at the window – there was no reason to – you wouldn’t expect it.”

Mr Baker added: “I was shouting and screaming, people didn’t realise why I was shouting so much at first. We lifted up one corner and… dragged Andrew out. I looked at him and I could tell it was bad, but he was still breathing. I put him in the recovery position. He took a couple of breaths and then he just stopped breathing.”

The coroner said there were three possibilities facing the jury: that the window had not been properly packaged in Switzerland; that the banding had failed in transit; that someone on the site mistakenly cut the bands. Mr Lowne had posed with his co-workers for a publicity photograph seconds before the window fell on him. The image of smiling workmen holding flasks on top of the building was shown to the jury.

The coroner asked Mr Baker whether the photo had disrupted the process. Mr Baker said: “There was no hesitation really. There were a few smiles for the photo, and then it was back to work.”

On Tuesday, three other co-workers told the jury they also believed that the bands may not have been fitted properly. The court heard that Mr Lowne had returned to work six weeks after a heart attack in January that year.

Mr Baker was asked whether Mr Lowne’s heart attack had affected the way he worked.  He said: “There are no light duties. We told him not to do too much and take it easy. But, basically, there’s work and there’s not working.”

His widow Nicola Lowne told the court “he had a life in construction … doing all sorts of jobs”, adding: “He was at Heathrow for a long time, he did City jobs. He worked seven days a week. He never had time off. He was always at work. He’d have his tea or coffee, take the dog for a walk and then go.” She added that they had a 14-year-old daughter.

The inquest is expected to conclude tomorrow (Friday).

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