Docks worker tragedy: Corporate manslaughter investigation is launched

IPSWICH: A corporate manslaughter probe has been launched after a mechanical engineer was killed when a tyre exploded in his face at Ipswich docks.

Dad-of-two Gary Deaves died on May 9 at Ipswich Hospital, six weeks after the incident at a quayside warehouse on March 30.

Now, detectives and officials from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are investigating whether the tragedy came as a result of his employers, Associated British Ports (ABP), breaching their duty of care.

The probe – codenamed Operation Oakum – will examine whether ABP should be charged with corporate manslaughter.

Mr Deaves, 48, of Churchill Avenue, Ipswich, sustained traumatic head injuries as he worked on a forklift truck at Cliff Quay.

A Suffolk Police spokesman said officers became involved in the investigation at the request of the HSE.

He said: “The HSE asked us to look at the possibility of corporate manslaughter.

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“We are assisting them with their investigation.”

A spokesman for the HSE confirmed: “We are investigating the incident in conjunction with Suffolk police.”

Mr Deaves’ widow Dawn said she and the couple’s two children, Chris, 20, and 15-year-old Jennifer, have struggled to come to terms with losing him.

She said they are aware of the investigation and hope it will come to a swift conclusion.

“We are coping,” added Mrs Deaves.

“We have our good days and our bad days. We miss him dreadfully.”

Papers prepared for yesterday’s Police Authority meeting revealed that expert examination of the wheel and the tyre has been completed and a report is being prepared.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 states that: “An organisation to which this section applies is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised, causes a person’s death, and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.”

An organisation is only guilty of the offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a “substantial element” in the breach of duty. It states an organisation is liable on conviction to a fine.

A spokeswoman for ABP declined to comment because the investigation was ongoing.