London

Company guilty of Knightsbridge balcony fall deaths

Balcony collapse
Image caption Tomasz Procko, 22, and Karol Symanski, 29, were killed after part of a first floor balcony railing gave way during renovations in November 2014

A construction firm has been found guilty of the manslaughter of two workmen who fell to their deaths while renovating a multi-million pound flat.

Tomasz Procko, 22, and Karol Symanski, 29, died in an "entirely foreseeable and preventable" accident while hauling a large sofa up over a balcony.

They died when 130-year-old railings used to support the sofa gave way in November 2014, the Old Bailey heard.

Martinisation (London) Ltd denied the charges.

The project in Cadogan Square - located between Harrods and Sloane Square - was behind schedule and £400,000 over budget when the men died, prosecutor Adrian Darbishire QC said.

The firm was found guilty of health and safety breaches and two charges of corporate manslaughter.

Boss Martin Gutaj, 43, from Brentford, was convicted of breaching health and safety laws.

Image caption The renovation was behind schedule and over budget

The five workers were unsupervised when they lifted the 18 stone (115kg) sofa 20ft (6m) on to the balcony using ropes, relying on Victorian railings for safety.

The two men fell to their deaths when part of the railing gave way, jurors were told.

A third was "saved only by being grabbed by his colleagues as he began to fall".

"It was an accident, but it was an entirely foreseeable and preventable one," Mr Darbishire said.

Image caption A third worker was saved only because he was grabbed by colleagues as he started to fall

The "dangerous" sofa hauling method "was the result of a long and unhappy history of neglect of health and safety at the company which employed them," he added.

The company and Mr Gutaj had been warned "more than once" of the importance of having trained, competent and effective supervisors before the accident, the court was told.

The entire workforce spoke Polish as their first language, yet the firm's policy documents and risk assessment were only available in English, the court heard.

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