Crane supervisor had basic qualification, inquest hears
7:20am Friday 9th March 2012 in Your Say
The man tasked with ensuring a crane that collapsed in 2006 killing two men had only passed a basic crane examination, an inquest has heard.
Fred Beckwith, an erection supervisor for Falcon Cranes, told a jury he had gained most of his qualifications two years ago - more than three years after the tragic accident happened.
Mr Beckwith said he had more than 38 years experience in the industry but had only taken a basic crane examination in all those years prior to the accident - which took place on a Barratt Homes site in Thessaly Road, Battersea.
He has subsequently taken and passed more "technical" qualifications, including an NVQ.
When asked what he had learnt on the course before the accident about the "science of using a crane" and "metal fatigue", Mr Beckwith replied: "I refer to the manual".
But on Monday, the inquest heard the owners of the crane had used the wrong manual which meant they overloaded it by four tonnes. It was designed to carry eight tonnes but was loaded with 12.2 tonnes at the time of the accident.
The 165ft crane collapsed on September 26, 2006, killing driver Jonathan Cloke, 37, and Michael Alexa, 23, who was washing his car nearby.
Mr Beckwith was initially brought to the site to erect the crane on July 19, 2006, and then returned to fix four broken slew bolts a week later.
Such was the "unusual" nature of the damage to the crane, he told the inquest he had never seen broken "slew bolts" on an erected crane in his 38 years in the industry.
The bolts fix the "slew ring" to the crane and allow the machine to rotate 360 degrees when in operation.
Mr Beckwith also admitted there was seemingly no process in place to find out how many times the bolts had been tightened or replaced - meaning he had no idea who had worked on it and what they had done.
He was also asked whether anyone was in charge of making sure the crane was working safely, he said: "The service manager".
However, earlier in the hearing, the jury were told this position was vacant at the time of the crane's collapse.
The Crown Prosecution Service decided in September last year there was not enough evidence to press ahead with a criminal prosecution for either corporate manslaughter of manslaughter by gross negligence.
The crane itself was over 20 years old and was purchased in 1978 from a Norwegian company who were not named and have since gone out of business.
It took four days to remove Mr Alexa's body because the "mobile" crane, brought in to lift the fallen machine, was too heavy for the fragile ground in the construction area.
The Barratt Homes construction site was on the former site of John Milton School - the half-built flats were demolished and rebuilt following the collapse.
The inquest, at Westminster Coroner's Court, is expected to finish on Friday (March 9).