Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham wall collapse deaths: Two bodies removed from recycling site

Hawkeswood Recycling, Aston, Birmingham Image copyright PA
Image caption Specialist support officers have been counselling families of the victims

Two bodies have been removed from a recycling site in Birmingham where a retaining wall holding scrap metal collapsed, killing a total of five men.

The men were working at Hawkeswood Metal in Nechells when the 15ft (4.5m) wall of concrete and metal fell on them just before 09:00 BST on Thursday.

West Midlands Police described it as "a very traumatic incident".

The recovery effort continued all day and will recommence "first thing" on Friday, a spokesman for the force said.

Wall collapse deaths: Latest updates

Det Supt Mark Payne said: "It's a difficult and complex process, we've had to move a huge amount of metal and concrete in order to access some of the deceased men.

"That process is still ongoing."

Image caption The bodies were removed form the scene at about 21:45 BST on Thursday night

A sixth man was injured in the crush but managed to escape from the debris. He was taken to hospital with a broken leg.

West Midlands Ambulance Service, a specialist rescue unit, police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) worked together at the scene.

A spokesman for the ambulance service said: "On arrival, ambulance crews found that a wall had collapsed. Sadly, there was nothing that could be done to save the five men who had been working next to it."

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Media captionRobert Hall reports: "The careful, delicate work has some days to run"

The five who died have not yet been officially named but they are thought to be Spanish nationals of Gambian origin, who moved to Birmingham to work.

"Everybody is sad," said Ansumana Barrow, 63, president of the Gambian Association in Birmingham.

"We are hard working. They [the men who died] are feeding their families, that's why they are here. Unfortunately, this thing happens."

Image caption Friends of the victims said they had been celebrating Eid with the men on Wednesday

A spokesman for Hawkeswood Metal confirmed the deaths were caused by "the collapse of a partitioning wall within the company premises" but it was not known why the structure had collapsed.

"The wall had been in place for more than two years and had not been subject to any damage or was not subject to any incident that would have resulted in its collapse," he said.

The company, which says it is co-operating fully with police, fire crews and the Health and Safety Executive, said it wished "to offer their condolences to the families of all those involved in the incident at this very sad time".

Det Supt Payne, of West Midlands Police, said: "We are still in the very early stages of this investigation to determine exactly what happened this morning.

"Sadly five people have lost their lives and we have several teams of specialist officers supporting their families at this time.

"This has been a very traumatic incident for those who were at the site this morning and we will continue to work alongside the HSE and the other emergency services at the scene."

At a news conference, he said the victims had been working to recover scrap metal when the accident happened.

Image copyright West Midlands Fire Service
Image caption Emergency services battled to save the men but they were declared dead at the scene

The recycling plant was the scene of a major fire in February this year, when 700 tonnes of scrap metal went up in flames.

In 2012, the company was fined £50,000 after a worker's arm became trapped in machinery.

Hawkeswood Metal Recycling Ltd pleaded guilty at Birmingham Crown Court to a breach of health and safety law.

According to its company website, the firm processes more than 500,000 tonnes of scrap metal each year.

The company, which employs about 50 people, began trading more than 40 years ago and has a customer base that includes local authorities, major PLCs and smaller independent companies.

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