On 15 January, Patrick O’Sullivan was killed while working on the Wembley national stadium project. His family tells us that those responsible must be held to account
Mary O’Sullivan saw nothing ominous in the 11am phone call that summoned her back to the office for a “special meeting”. A car was sent to pick her up.
It was only on her arrival at Ealing social services, where she was employed as a care worker, that she realised that something was wrong: “I just sensed that there was a problem. Everybody was acting strangely and I knew something wasn’t quite right,” she says.
The police told Mary that her husband Patrick had been killed by a platform collapse at Wembley stadium, where he worked as a site operative for concrete contractor PC Harrington. They said a work platform feeding a concrete pour had collapsed on top of him. He was pronounced dead at the scene. “When I was told, my body just went into a state of shock,” she says.
After the shock abated, Mary felt grief and then anger. The grief was over the loss of her husband of 34 years. The anger was caused by her inability to find out what happened during that concrete pour on the morning of 15 January.
At the time, the family was appointed a police liaison officer, but they were also warned that they would not be told any details of the case while investigations were being conducted.
Six months later, sitting in a cafe on Ealing Broadway with her children John, 33, and Maggie, 32, Mary explains that the family still doesn’t know why Patrick died. What they do know is that his death should move the construction industry to improve its safety record.
John explains their frustration: “We are pretty angry. We’ve heard nothing really. We don’t want our dad to have died for nothing. We want answers and we want the industry to change its practices so this can never happen again.”
The O’Sullivans hold some hope that they might finally be informed of the details at an investigation progress meeting with the police, due to take place yesterday. They may well be disappointed. A Health and Safety Executive source says it is not yet clear what caused the accident, whether safety laws had been broken, or if it was a freak accident caused by human error. As a result, a decision has not been reached on whether any of the companies involved on the Wembley project would be prosecuted.
I want company directors behind bars if they are killing people
The source insists that the investigation will eventually uncover the cause of the collapse. He says: “Whatever the case, a man has died. The investigation will cover every aspect of the accident and every possibility. There will be an inquest shortly.”
After Patrick O’Sullivan’s death, further safety failings occurred at Wembley, although not in the concrete works. In March, a crane accident occurred when two workers with steel firm Cleveland Bridge were seriously injured after a man-riding basket struck a roof platform and fell 4 m. A second safety investigation began.
At a workers’ memorial march in April dedicated to Patrick O’Sullivan, the problems at Wembley led to his daughter, Maggie, to speak out on the industry’s safety record: “It’s time for the industry to become safer; it really is time for the industry to change,” she said.
Maggie words echoed her father’s own sentiments: “That’s what made all of this so shocking, as Patrick was a safe worker. He would always talk about safety and how important it was.
“His work meant everything to him; he would not cut corners. He was so passionate – construction was his life, where his friends were and he took it very seriously. All of this has been shown by the 3000 people who attended his funeral over two days. There were people from Wembley and people from many sites that he has worked on for PC Harrington over 17 years.”
Considering their husband and father’s tragic death, the family are in no doubt as to what they want to see if any of the companies on Wembley are found to be responsible: “I want company directors behind bars if they are killing people,” Mary says quietly. “What happened to Pat cannot be allowed to happen to anybody ever again.”
But when the anger briefly subsides, her thoughts return to the painful loss of her husband: “To be honest, I still can’t believe it. I still expect him to walk through the door at home and slam his keys down as he always did.”