Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham wall collapse deaths: All five bodies recovered

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Media captionPolice liaison officers are working with the families

The bodies of all five workers killed in a wall collapse at a recycling plant in Birmingham have been recovered.

Two bodies were retrieved from the rubble at Hawkeswood Metal in Nechells on Thursday, with the third being removed on Friday morning.

The men, originally from Gambia, died when a 15ft wall of concrete and scrap metal fell on them as they worked.

Relatives wanted the bodies recovered for burial as soon as possible, in accordance with Muslim custom.

The fourth and fifth bodies were removed from the scene on Friday afternoon and it is thought they have been taken to a mortuary in Coventry.

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Forensic post-mortem examinations will then be carried out on Monday.

Det Supt Mark Payne, of West Midlands Police, said some identification "may not be straightforward" and DNA methods maybe used.

He said officers were in contact with all of the families and the coroner's office "to take the families through the next stage of the process".

"Today we will be carrying out the final stages of the search and making everything safe," he said.

"Then we will work with the HSE [Health and Safety Executive] to see exactly what the cause of this incident was. Then we will take appropriate action once we know."

The men, Spanish citizens of Gambian heritage, have been named locally as Bangaly Dukureh, Ousman Jabbie, Alimamo Jammeh, Mohammed Jangana and Saibo Sillah. All are believed to married with children.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The five men killed are believed to be Spanish nationals originally from Gambia

A sixth man, who escaped with a broken leg, is also a Spanish citizen of Gambian heritage.

Lamin Yaffa, chairman of the Gambian Islamic Centre, on Raglan Road in Cape Hill, Smethwick, said the man, who he knows as Kamera, was recovering well in hospital.

"Some people have been to see him and they say he is doing well," he said.

Simon Hardiman, group commander of West Midlands Fire Service, said they had to juggle the safety of its crews and respect the dignity of the victims.

He said that although scenes of crime officers were at the site, the incident was not being treated as a crime.

Money has been pouring into a fundraising initiative launched by the Birmingham Mail and the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, with more than £15,000 raised.

Image copyright Lang Dampha
Image caption Alimamo Jammeh, one of the five men who died, was due to collect keys for a new home on Thursday. His wife and family were due to fly into the UK on Sunday

Crowds gathered at the gates of Hawkeswood Recycling during the morning but most left at lunchtime to attend Friday prayers.

The local branch of the Gambian Association, based in Ladywood, said it was "devastated" by the news.

Fizar Mahmood, who lives next to the recycling site, said he heard the sound of the wall collapsing but only found out what had happened when his brother called him later.

"I heard the noise in the morning, I didn't expect that this would be happening here," he said.

Police hold meeting with Gambian community: Rebecca Woods, BBC reporter

I've been at a meeting between West Midlands Police and the Gambian community at a mosque in Smethwick.

The force wants to reassure people that it will do what it can to support the victims' families.

Supt Andy Parsons said specially trained officers were helping relatives and that uniformed police would remain at the site all weekend while investigations continue.

Lamin Yaffa, from the Gambian Islamic Centre, said there were several more members of his community who worked at the Hawkeswood Metal plant.

He said he hoped the incident would highlight the difficult conditions some poorly paid people are working in.

"Not just in my community, but in every community there are these problems," he said.

He said the Gambian people would now unite to help them through the tragedy.

"We are a very strong community. As Muslims, this is our way of life. This is what motivates us - to come together at these times."

Image caption Relatives of the five men pleaded for their bodies to be recovered speedily

The Spanish Embassy has been in touch with West Midlands Police offering support to the families.

Mr Yaffa said the Gambian community in Birmingham, which numbers about 10,000 people, had been deeply affected by the deaths.

"There are quite a lot of Gambians in Birmingham, it's a close community and we all know each other. Gambians are still like the olden days of the UK, people are very close," he said.

'Support families'

At the meeting with the Gambian community in Smethwick earlier, Supt Andy Parsons promised to keep the community informed of the investigation.

But he warned that the bodies could not be released for the funerals until the cause of death had been established and initial investigations had been carried out.

Detectives have said they had a "reasonable idea" about what happened.

Several members of the audience voiced their concerns about health and safety at the site, highlighting a serious accident there in 2012 when a worker trapped his arm in machinery.

Hawkeswood Metal Recycling Ltd, which employs about 50 people, was fined £50,000 for the incident. It also pleaded guilty at Birmingham Crown Court to a breach of health and safety law.

The company, which was established more than 40 years ago, says it deals with more than 500,000 tonnes of scrap metal each year at its Nechells site.

The plant was also the scene of a major fire in February this year, as 700 tonnes of scrap metal went up in flames.

Image caption Relatives and colleagues of the five men who died gathered at the recycling plant in Nechells during the recovery operation

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