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Family of New Cumnock windfarm worker who froze to death welcome convictions

The family of a windfarm worker who froze to death feel they now have justice after two firms were convicted over the tragedy.

Ronnie Alexander, 74, died at the Afton windfarm near New Cumnock, Ayrshire after being stranded during severe weather.

The security guard from Kilmarnock succumbed to hypothermia after his cabin generator failed leaving him without electricity or heat.

Employers CSM Facilities and windfarm bosses Farrans Construction were convicted today [August 25] at Ayr Sheriff Court over the death after they admitted to health and safety breaches.

Relatives have now called on all industries to improve care and support measures for remote workers.

Heartbroken widow Mary Alexander, 81, from Kilmarnock, Ayrshire said: “Losing Ronnie was the hardest thing our family has experienced.

“He was loving, hard-working, kind spirited and he doted on his grandkids – that’s why he was still working in his 70s because he wanted to spoil his family.

“My husband died in January 2018 and November of that year would have been our 50th wedding anniversary.

“To have lived through so much together and have him taken because his boss failed on basic, common sense procedures is just beyond us all.

“While we now know what happened that night it pains us to imagine what Ronnie felt – not just the physical struggle but enduring it alone. Because of this, we’ll never really have peace or closure.”

The tragic incident on 21 January 2018 happened after the Met Office issued a yellow “be aware” warning for heavy snow.

The alarm was raised around 8.30pm after Mr Alexander failed to return home after a 12-hour shift and relatives failed to get an answer on his mobile phone.

Police Scotland’s Mountain Rescue Team found Mr Alexander later that night around 1am in deep snow and nearly one mile away from his security cabin.

At this time Mr Alexander still had signs of life and was airlifted to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary but medics only estimated a 5% chance of survival.

Sadly, despite the efforts of intensive care staff, Mr Alexander died later that morning on January 22 – cause of death was confirmed as hypothermia.

It is thought Mr Alexander left his cabin in the hope of reaching a second site cabin around one kilometre away in the hope it still had power so he could survive the night.

Ronnie is survived by his wife, two daughters and three grandsons who are being represented by Digby Brown Solicitors in the hope that a civil action will improve safety for all remote workers.

Daughter Laura Alexander, 48, said: “The only saving grace is that the rescuers found our dad and the hospital kept him alive long enough so he wasn’t alone at the very end and we got to say goodbye.

“We now just hope all industries, not just windfarms, who rely on remote workers take a hard look at themselves, their support procedures and back-up plans to make sure people are safe.”

The retail worker from Kilmarnock added: “No other family should have to endure this trauma because it’s not just the loss that hurts – the aftermath brings its own agony.

“We finally just want to thank our family, friends and the community for their support but now request to be left alone.”

Mr Alexander was employed by CSM Facilities based in Glasgow however Belfast firm Farrans Construction – which was building the windfarm at the time of the incident – was responsible for the overall health and safety of the site.

Following Mr Alexander’s death Farrans put a stop to night time and weekend security work – instead they installed high-tech electronic security devices.

A spokesperson from Northstone Ltd, for which Farrans is a paert, said: “Northstone accepts that on this occasion at Afton Windfarm we did not meet the high health and safety standards that we seek to achieve to protect our employees, customers, clients, subcontractors and communities.”

“We deeply regret that this resulted in the death of Mr. Ronald Alexander. Our thoughts and sincerest sympathies remain with his family and friends.”

“We took immediate action on the Afton Windfarm project to prevent a re-occurrence. As part of our internal investigation and the subsequent findings of this investigation we have reviewed and improved our risk control processes across the business.”