Investigation Launched into Ellerby Road Tragedy

"Operation Chamberlain" aims to find out why 37 year-old builder died

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A joint specialist team of police and Health & Safety Executive investigators and engineers has been formed to investigate the causes of the building collapse at 69 Ellerby Street which caused the death of a 37 year old builder.

Mr Anghel Milosavlevici, who was Romanian, was killed while excavating the basement of the house, The ground floor collapsed on top of him at 3pm on Thursday December 2.

Mr Milosavlevici, who was working alongside his father Gheorghe and friend Boby Risipitu, was pinned down by a slab of concrete and pronounced dead at the scene. 

A post mortem examination confirmed that he died from crush injuries to the chest, and abdomen and internal injuries.

The home owners in Ellerby Road - one of the "alphabet streets" leading from west from Fulham Palace Road - were not in the house at the time, and were said to be in "total shock".

The builders were working for a Hertford based company called Siday Construction which listed the Ellerby Road excavation among current projects on its website. The job was described as installing a basement under an existing house, to include drainage. The work was due to last 20 weeks and cost £235,000.

The investigation, which has been named Operation Chamberlain, involves HSE Inspectors, structural engineers, and experts from the Met Police Specialist Crime Directorate and Property Services Department as well as local police

Detective Inspector Tony Murphy, from Hammersmith Police Station, who is leading the joint investigation team said: " This will be a complex and unavoidably lengthy investigation. 

" The situation at the incident scene has proved very challenging:  it is a top priority for us to forensically excavate the collapsed area inside the house to find out exactly what happened there, but safety is paramount, and before we can begin we have had to pour some 60 cubic metres of a special lightweight but strong concrete into the existing excavations to make absolutely sure everything is stable. 

" This preparatory work has been completed successfully and we hope to begin the excavation work almost immediately." 

Police say that in addition to conventional video and stills photography which the Met’s forensic specialists would carry out at any serious incident scene, the Op Chamberlain Team have been able to call on some cutting edge technology to make a detailed record of the scene before the concrete was poured. 

This included 360-degree cameras similar to the technology used by the web company Google, and 3D laser-scan computer modelling equipment. 

Commenting on the potential risks of basement excavation work, Richard Boland, Head of Operations for the Health & Safety Executive in London said: " Whilst it is too early to comment on what happened at this particular site, I want to stress that there is no excuse for anyone building a basement not to seek expert advice, for example from a structural engineer, about appropriate protective measures to support the excavation and the structure. 

" Where we find that work is taking place without this, we will take robust enforcement action and where fatalities occur we will work closely with the police to bring more serious charges where appropriate." 

He added that anyone who has concerns about unsafe practices can report them, in confidence, to HSE’s InfoLine on 0845 345 0055.  

December 17, 2010