Ħamrun building collapse: Worker warns colleague to remain mum on equipment use

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A Maltese construction worker operating new equipment had warned his foreign colleague to remain mum on the incident after the fatal collapse during which Miriam Pace, 54, lost her life.

The compilation of evidence against four individuals who have been accused of Pace’s death through negligence and involuntarily damaging third-party property, started on Thursday morning.

The project’s architect (a 36-year-old man of Rabat), the Site Technical Officer (a 72-year-old of Gżira), the excavation contractor (a 37-year-old man of Żebbuġ) and a construction worker (a 42-year-old of Mqabba), appeared in a Magistrate’s court presided over by Magistrate Joe Mifsud for the first hearing.

Widower Carmel Pace was also present in the courtroom following proceedings.

New equipment used on the day of the incident

During the proceedings on Thursday, Police Inspector Robert Vella took the witness stand.

Testifying in court, Vella gave an account of the events which led to the collapse and the police investigations that took place.

All throughout that morning, the construction had been working at the site alongside another worker, Albanian-national, clearing rubble to make way for excavation works, making use of an excavator with bucket. The Maltese construction worker construction waste material away from the site.

Shortly before the incident, just after 2pm, the Maltese worker had allegedly shifted his operations to another excavation machine, a new addition to which a hammer head had just been attached for the first time.

His Albanian colleague recalled that the Maltese worker had been chipping away at the hard rocks beneath the adjoining showroom when the property gave way.

The Maltese construction worker allegedly threatened his foreign colleague warning him not to say anything to anyone about the incident because he would otherwise face big problems.

Vella exhibited photos in court which showed the hammer excavator moved to the other side after the building had collapsed. CCTV footage shows the equipment beneath the showroom, a few seconds before the building collapsed.

Forensic experts had noted blue paint on the back side of the excavator which possibly matched the paintwork of one of the six vehicles garaged in the neighbouring showroom at the time of the incident.

Mobile to be analysed

The Albanian national was released on bail after releasing a police statement. His colleague was arrested three days after the incident.

The court upheld a request by the prosecution to have the mobile of the Maltese construction worker analysed.

Police Inspectors Robert Vella and Matthew Galea led the prosecution.

Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Alfred Abela appeared for the architect and the site technical officer.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are appearing for the construction worker.

Lawyers Michael Sciriha, Roberto Montalto, Lucio Sciriha and Franco Galea are appearing for the contractor.

Lawyers Joe Giglio and David Bonello are appearing as parte civile.

The compilation of evidence will continue on Monday.