Australia

Witness describes moment of ‘eye contact’

A witness has described the horrifying moment he made eye contact with a young apprentice who fell from a glass roof in a Perth accident, amid reports safety issues were raised at the site. A 23-year-old apprentice tragically died at a Curtin University site on Tuesday when the glass roof he was standing on gave…

A witness has described the horrifying moment he made eye contact with a young apprentice who fell from a glass roof in a Perth accident, amid reports safety issues were raised at the site.

A 23-year-old apprentice tragically died at a Curtin University site on Tuesday when the glass roof he was standing on gave way, leading to a more than 20 metre fall to the ground.

Another man, 27, is fighting for life in intensive care after emergency surgery while a third man is also being treated but is in a stable condition.

Witnesses at the site described hearing an almighty crash that left a “mess” of steel and glass.

One worker told The West Australian he made eye contact with the young man as he fell to the ground.

“I saw the victim as he was falling,” the worker said. “I made eye contact with him.

“I couldn’t do anything.”

Construction workers’ union state secretary Mick Buchan also told the newspaper he had been made aware of safety concerns about the site.

“We are hearing that there were some issues with deflection in the structural steel,” he said.

“Those issues were addressed by structural engineers …(but) I understand that there were some concerns.”

Mr Buchan said it was an “absolute disgrace” to have a young worker lose their life and he would not rest until he found out what happened.

“We are not going to leave any rock unturned to get to the outcome of what has happened,” he said.

“It’s 2020, these events should not occur in the building and construction industry.

“When you hear of a young worker that has died on the job who has just started his career in construction, what message does that send?

“It’s an absolute disgrace and someone needs to be accountable and responsible for this.”

More than 100 workers on site were sent home after the tragedy with many appearing visibly shocked outside the scene.

Electrical worker Damien Clancy said he was just 30 metres away and saw the “steel and glass come crashing down” after hearing a monstrous noise.

“The story that I’m hearing is that the structure itself couldn’t take the weight of the glass panels. There were two men on top of the glass panels when it collapsed.

“Some of the fire safe guys, they were under that site for the last four hours and had come down the boom lift to go to lunch. If it had happened five minutes earlier, there’d probably be multiple fatalities,” he said.

Police Commander Mike Bell said the deceased man and another suffering injuries fell from the fifth floor as the building “suddenly gave way without warning.”

Police are now working to recover the body.

Students at the campus were sent an alert warning them to avoid the area.

A Curtin University spokesman confirmed the collapse happened at building 418, which was currently under construction at the northern end of the campus, and the site was operated by Lend Lease.

“Curtin University wishes to extend its sincere condolences, thoughts and support to all those impacted by today’s tragic incident on campus,” a statement read.

“Curtin has cancelled events on campus this afternoon as a mark of respect to those so deeply affected by this tragedy.

“We request that people coming to campus avoid the northern end of campus.

“No Curtin staff or students were involved in the incident.”

Construction began in 2019 and is due for completion next year.

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