Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Teachers describe fatal wall collapse at Liberton High School

Keane Bennett Image copyright Other
Image caption Keane Wallis-Bennett was fatally injured in the changing rooms at Liberton High School

A fatal accident inquiry into the death of a schoolgirl has heard teachers tell of the moments after a wall collapsed and crushed her to death.

Keane Wallis-Bennett, 12, was fatally injured at Edinburgh's Liberton High School in April 2014.

In a statement read to the inquiry, PE teacher Kerry Sweeney said she heard a bang from a girls' changing room.

She said she heard pupils shouting and saw panic on their faces. She described how she found a wall on top of Keane.

She said she was lifeless, not conscious or breathing.

Both Ms Sweeney and head of PE Stuart Robertson said no-one had previously reported any problems with the modesty wall.

Pair of legs

Ms Sweeny told the police she had gone to the changing rooms to tell pupils that, because of the weather conditions, they would not be playing football.

"As I entered the gym I heard a bang. There were a lot of girls in the changing room and I assumed someone had dropped something.

"I heard girls shouting 'Miss Sweeney, Miss Sweeney' and from the panic in their voices I knew something had happened". She said the wall was about six feet high. "When I went in I saw the wall had collapsed.

"I think there were three girls standing on the far side. I looked down and I saw a pair of legs, but I could not see her face it was covered by a piece of concrete about a metre square.

"I managed to lift it up and tried to get it away from her head. I tried to move it with my hands, but I could not, it was so heavy."

Another teacher, Nicole Christie, arrived and Ms Sweeney said they managed to lift the block onto its side.

She said: "I saw it was Keane.

"There was a lot of blood. She was lying on her back and her hair was matted across her face.

"She was lifeless. I could only hear a very, very weak gurgle."

'Not breathing'

Keane, she said, was unconscious and not breathing.

The school nurse arrived, told the girls to get out, and Ms Sweeney ran to the school office and dialled 999 for an ambulance.

She told the police she had never heard of the wall moving and added that if she had she would have taken action. She had, she said, never seen pupils kicking or pushing the wall.

Mr Robertson told the police the school nurse had come running past him carrying a first aid kit and asked him: "Where's this incident?"

Mr Robertson said some pupils were standing outside the changing area, sobbing and crying. "I realised it was not an innocuous incident and I was not prepared for what I saw in the changing room. I could not make sense of what I was seeing."

Mr Robertson said the wall had fallen and broken into pieces, like a jigsaw. He saw a girl on the floor on her back with Ms Christie crouched down beside her.

The girl, he said, had blood on her face and her mouth was open. The nurse was trying to get a response from the girl and Mr Robertson said he heard her saying "Come on Keane".

Following a police investigation, it was decided no-one would face criminal charges.

However, an inquiry was ordered to establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident.

In her opening remarks on Monday, Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen said the two-week inquiry would focus on why the wall collapsed, why it collapsed when it did and the property maintenance regime at the school.

The inquiry at Edinburgh Sheriff Court continues.

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