Wind farm company fined over €200,000 following death of employee in Sligo landslide Patrick McCaffrey and his wife, Helen.
A civil engineering firm involved in the construction of a wind farm in County Sligo where a landslide occurred resulting in the death of a 37 year old employee has been fined €220,000 plus costs of €31,000 at Sligo Circuit Court.
The defendants, Denis Moriarity The Kerries Ltd of Tralee, County Kerry, had pleaded guilty to two charges under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 relating to an accident at Derrysallagh Wind Farm, Glen, County Sligo, on December 12th 2016 when Patrick McCaffrey of Rossinver, County Leitrim, lost his life.
The charges related to the construction of a temporary road linking an existing temporary road to a berm on the wind farm.
Mr McCaffrey was working at the site when the landslide occurred at 7pm and as a result he was trapped and suffocated.
An Inspector with the Health and Safety Authority along with a geotechnical engineer established that the peat slide was most likely triggered by the construction of the floating road.
Judge Keenan Johnson said the company, failed to note that the area where the accident occurred was deemed a high risk for peat slide.
“Furthermore, there was no proper plan or design for the floating road. In addition to this no geotechnical risk management was undertaken prior to construction commencing. These were very significant failures,” said the Judge.
Judge Johnson said the deceased’s wife, Helen, had lost her husband and best friend and the consequences for her were life-changing. In her victim impact statement she described life as being a living nightmare since her husband’s death. She described him as her rock following the death of their baby son Jack the previous year and she had outlined how their dream of creating a family home had now been robbed, the couple having recently bought a house with plans to renovate it.
“This is a project that she must now face alone and without the love of her husband,” said the Judge. Mrs McCaffrey said that every day she sees wind farm turbines and is reminded of the tragic death of her husband. She described him as a true, loving, considerate and dedicated husband, the love of her life and that he was one in a million.
A Victim Impact Statement from the McCaffrey family said the deceased’s parents were left heartbroken as were his brother and three sisters. He was described as a hard working man who was incredibly generous and who loved life. They were constantly reminded of Paddy, as he was known, and became emotional when they heard a particular song he liked or when someone mentioned his name.
Judge Johnson said it was clear the accident caused untold hurt and pain to Helen McCaffrey and the McCaffrey family.
“That pain an hurt has been exacerbated by the fact that Patrick’s death could have been avoided had proper preparation and planning gone into the development of the wind farm site,” said the Judge.
He noted that the company got into financial difficulties in 2018, had since exited examinership but was trading at a loss and that the current asset value of the firm was €883,000.
The company was refused insurance for wind farm work in 2019 as a consequence and had two employees whereas at the time of the accident it had over 100.
It had insurance at the time of the accident and there were funds to meet the civil claim of the next of kin.
Judge Johnson imposed a fined of €220,000 with €31,000 for the Health and Safety Authority’s costs also to be discharged within six months.
The Judge added that it seemed clear from the company’s financial records that it had been trading at a loss for the last number of years and according to its accountant it had no future.
“In those circumstances the company should realise its assets and discharge the fine and costs without delay,” he said.
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