Worker's remorse over death of baby
Monday 14 May 2012
A workman who cut the base of a lamp post that later fell, fatally injuring a baby, wishes he had died instead, an inquest heard today.
Tommy Hollis suffered severe head injuries when he was struck by the falling lamp post as he was sleeping in a pram being pushed by his nanny in Chiswick, west London, on the morning of February 23, 2010.
He was rushed to hospital but scans revealed his brain injuries were so serious he could not survive. His parents agreed Tommy should not be resuscitated if he suffered a cardiac arrest.
He was a day short of his first birthday when he died two days later, on February 25, 2010 at London's King's College Hospital.
Kelvin Elmore, a civil engineer with construction firm Mc Nicholas, was clearing obstructions under the ground ready for laying new cables for Virgin Media when he cut the steel plate, five days before the incident.
In a statement read to West London Coroner's Court, Mr Elmore said he thought the steel - 18 inches from the lamp post - was part of an old tram line and did not realise it was connected to the lamp post in any way.
Mr Elmore, who was not on site when the lamp post fell, said he was "utterly devastated" to have been involved in the incident.
His statement read: "As a father myself, I cannot express how horrified I am to have had any connection with the death of a child.
"I cannot imagine what the family are going through. As I said when I gave my statement to the police, if I could take the place of that child, then I would."
An investigation was carried out by the Health and Safety Executive and the police, the inquest was told.
Mr Elmore said in his statement that he admitted immediately it had been him who cut the steel, but added: "I simply thought it was part of an obsolete part of steel track and had no idea it was connected to the lamp-post."
The lamp post was due to be removed by the council later as part of a road re-widening scheme in Chiswick.
Mr Elmore was found guilty of gross misconduct by his company and given a written warning.
He is still employed by them, the inquest jury was told.
Tommy's nanny said in a statement that the pair were walking to a Starbucks coffee shop from Chris and Kate Hollis's nearby home when the accident happened.
Anna Martin said they had been waiting to cross at traffic lights close to the roadworks, near Chiswick Town Hall when she heard a "hollow" noise.
"There was a terrible scream and I immediately pulled the pushchair back," she said in the statement.
It was then she realised the buggy had no wheels and had been hit by something. What looked like a piece of pipe was lying across the roadworks barriers, she said.
Ms Martin added: "Tommy looked like he was sleeping. It had all happened so fast."
She tried to revive the little boy with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
"I didn't know what was wrong, but his eyes were closed and he looked like he was sleeping, which worried me." she continued. "I shouted for help."
Tommy was carried onto the steps of the town hall where efforts were made to revive him before an ambulance arrived.
The nanny, who said a policeman told her Tommy was breathing, telephoned his parents to inform them there had been "a terrible accident".
Mary Gregory, who was pushing her granddaughter Poppy in a buggy next to Ms Martin, was also struck by the lamp post. She was knocked to the ground and treated in hospital overnight. The inquest heard she was the woman that Tommy's nanny could hear screaming.
Mrs Hollis had left the coroner's court when the evidence of a paramedic who attended to her son was read out.
Her husband was also present at the inquest, due to last for three days, to hear the details of their son's death.
Mr Elmore said he had never seen a lamppost secured in such a way in his 17-year career.
He added: "I was surprised and shocked how the lamppost had been manipulated to anchor it in the ground."
A lamppost usually runs straight into the ground, or is secured on a concrete plinth, the inquest heard.
The bottom of the lamppost concerned had instead been cut off, and a steel plate and concrete structure connected to it in a "dog-leg" arrangement.
Health and Safety Executive inspector Dominic Long said the "hybrid column" used to support the lamppost was "rare".
He told the inquest the steel plate had been compared to a section of tram line during the investigation, and it was found that they did not appear similar.
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