Brighton building site victim 'fell silently' court hears

Mike Holland
Image caption Brighton businessman Mike Holland

A carpenter has described to a court the moment his friend and co-worker was involved in a fatal fall at a building site.

David Clark, 55, died in hospital in October 2014, almost a month after the accident at a property in Brighton.

Michael Holland, owner of a renovation company, and Grant Oakes, the site foreman, deny manslaughter.

Andrew Cooper told Lewes Crown Court his friend Mr Clark fell silently when a board cracked beneath his feet.

The court heard the pair had gone to get some equipment to bridge a void of 4.5m above a stairwell where they working in the east wing of the property in Stanmer Park.

Fighting back tears, he said: "We started walking back. Dave walked across the single board, I heard the board crack, and I saw him falling through the gap. It all happened in a split second.

"He didn't say a single thing."

Image copyright Google
Image caption David Clark was working on buildings in Stanmer Park in Brighton

Mr Cooper told the court the workers would lay out temporary plywood boards while working on the first floor, as they could not lay a permanent floor until the roof was weather-proofed.

A site visit from a health and safety inspector in 2013 raised six issues on the west wing - where the men had previously been working - around the risk of workmen falling through gaps in the floor.

Mr Oakes instructed workers on complying with the improvements, using guard rails and screwing down the temporary flooring, the court head.

However Mr Cooper conceded they started getting "a bit lax" about eight months later, because the measures took extra time which the men were not being paid for.

Mr Oakes of Elm Drive, Hove, pleaded not guilty to failing to discharge his duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Millionaire businessman Mr Holland, of Kings Road, Brighton, pleaded guilty to the same charge.

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