Jury rules that falling masonry death at restaurant was accidental


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The Independent Online

The death of a man killed by a piece of falling masonry as he sat at a restaurant was an accident, an inquest jury has ruled.

Peter Westropp, 27, was struck as he drank with four friends in the terrace area of Le Bouchon Bordelais in Battersea, south London on August 10 last year.

Mr Westropp, a surveyor, of Scotts Lane, Shortlands in Bromley, south-east London, was pronounced dead at the scene.

He suffered "devastating head injuries", Westminster Deputy Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe said after a statement from the London Ambulance Service showed that Mr Westropp suffered a "large, open head injury on the top of the back of his head".

Returning a verdict of accidental death, the jury said the specific cause of the falling masonry could not be determined. But the stability of ornamental stones attached to the front of the 130-year-old building had been "degraded" over time due to both the absence of and corrosion of metal ties, they said.

The weight of a safety chain securing a canopy to the front of the restaurant may also have had a destabilising influence", the jury said.

Pathologists Professor Sebastian Lucas and Dr Yasir Alwahab, who performed the post-mortem examination on Mr Westropp, told the inquest that the cause of death was a head injury. They said his skull was "broken in an eggshell manner".

A statement by air ambulance doctor Dr Daniel Nevin, who pronounced Mr Westropp dead at the scene, said he attempted to resuscitate him but the head injury was too severe and there were "no signs of life".

Dr Radcliffe paid tribute to Mr Westropp and said she planned to contact the relevant authorities to encourage "more preventative measures" to identify potentially dangerous buildings.

"He was obviously a much-loved man, a sociable, happy, outgoing individual who had a huge number of friends and who will be sadly missed by his parents and brother.

"He undertook a lot of outdoor adventures and loved skiing. He had travelled to every continent except Antarctica and made countless friends during that period."

It was "touching" that a memorial trust has been set up in Mr Westropp's honour, Dr Radcliffe said.

His family described feeling "a gaping hole had been left in their lives", the coroner said.

The inquest heard that Mr Westropp planned to return to the restaurant to celebrate his 28th birthday the weekend after his death. It was closed days earlier following nearby riots which had swept the capital.