Wall which killed Keane Wallis-Bennett '˜inherently unstable', inquiry rules

NO reasonable precautions could have been taken to avoid the death of an Edinburgh schoolgirl who died after a changing room wall collapsed on top of her, it has been concluded.
Keane Wallis-Bennett.Keane Wallis-Bennett.
Keane Wallis-Bennett.

However, a Fatal Accident Inquiry has ruled the wall was “inherently unstable” and said there should be warnings issued about similar walls.

Liberton High pupil Keane Wallis-Bennett died aged 12 when a freestanding “modesty” wall in her school’s old PE block fell on the morning of April 1, 2014.

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A determination has now been released by Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen following a two-week FAI in Edinburgh earlier this year.

Sheriff Principal Stephen said the “innocent high-spirited behaviour” of pupils who braced against the wall moments before it fell was sufficient to push it past its tipping point.

However she said the “real cause” of the tragic accident was the wall’s unstable nature.

Her determination reads: “That instability was caused by the alignment of two main factors: firstly, the design and construction of the wall and secondly, due to the wall being cracked along its horizontal plane.

“The wall separated close to its base and had been cracked at the separation plane for a long period of time prior to 1 April 2014.

“This internal defect or cracking would not be obvious on visual inspection.

“There are no reasonable precautions I can propose whereby Keane’s death or the accident might have been avoided.”

Sheriff Principal Stephen went on to say the risks of freestanding masonry walls had been made clear in the inquiry, which was held at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in June.

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In her recommendations, she said “reasonable steps” should be taken to reinforce previous warnings that measures should be taken to assess the risk of continued use of such walls.

Alistair Gaw, Executive Director of the city council’s Communities and Families, said: “Once again on behalf of the City of Edinburgh Council I want to express our deepest sympathies to Keane’s family for their tragic loss.

“Having now received the determination from Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen we note her conclusion that there were no reasonable precautions that could have been taken to avoid the accident which resulted in Keane’s death.

“She further finds that the maintenance and inspection regime at Liberton High School complied with statutory requirements and that there was a comprehensive understanding of the fault reporting system among staff.

“The determination also states that the Council had taken all reasonably practicable measures to ensure that the wall was inspected and maintained.

“We note the recommendation regarding the potential risks from free standing walls. Immediately after the incident in 2014 the Council removed similar free standing walls in its schools and subsequently safety advice was issued by the Scottish Government advising all local authorities of the risks regarding these walls.

“Our overriding priority is always the safety of pupils and staff and we want to ensure nothing like this tragic event ever happens again.”

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