Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

'Inherently unstable' wall killed Keane Wallis-Bennett

Keane Bennett Image copyright facebook
Image caption Keane Wallis-Bennett was fatally injured when a changing room wall collapsed on her

A fatal accident inquiry into the death of a school pupil crushed by a wall at an Edinburgh school has determined the structure was "inherently unstable".

Keane Wallis-Bennett, 12, died in the changing rooms of Liberton High School.

Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen found "the innocent high-spirited behaviour" of pupils could have caused the freestanding privacy wall to collapse.

She recommended that new warnings should be issued about similar walls.

City of Edinburgh Council said its "overriding priority" is to ensure pupils' safety.

The determination said Keane died of multiple injuries following the incident on 1 April 2014.

The immediate cause of the wall collapsing was found to be the application of lateral force sufficient to push it beyond its tipping point.

It was "probable" the activities of other pupils who were braced between the wall and a nearby shower wall caused it to move.

But the determination said: "The unstable nature of the wall was the real cause of the accident."

Cracked wall

It identified two main factors.

The first was the design and construction of the wall.

The second was a crack along the horizontal plane of the wall.

The sheriff principal said that although the crack close to its base had been there for "a long period of time" it would not have been obvious to visual inspection.

Although she said there were no reasonable precautions she could recommend which would have avoided the accident, she said a warning about freestanding walls should be reinforced.

She said the Health and Safety Executive, in conjunction with the Scottish government, should ensure an assessment is made of the risk posed by these walls.

This should be in conjunction with remedial measures where the walls cannot be safely and effectively removed.

Inspection regime

City of Edinburgh Council said the inquiry had backed its view that there were no "reasonable precautions" it could have taken.

Executive Director of Communities and Families, Alistair Gaw, said: "Once again on behalf of the City of Edinburgh Council I want to express our deepest sympathies to Keane's family for their tragic loss.

"Having now received the determination from Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen, we note her conclusion that there were no reasonable precautions that could have been taken to avoid the accident which resulted in Keane's death.

"She further finds that the maintenance and inspection regime at Liberton High School complied with statutory requirements and that there was a comprehensive understanding of the fault-reporting system among staff. The determination also states that the council had taken all reasonably practicable measures to ensure that the wall was inspected and maintained."

The council said it had already looked at the potential hazards represented by other walls of similar design.

Mr Gaw added: "Immediately after the incident in 2014, the council removed similar free-standing walls in its schools and subsequently safety advice was issued by the Scottish government advising all local authorities of the risks regarding these walls.

"Our overriding priority is always the safety of pupils and staff and we want to ensure nothing like this tragic event ever happens again."

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