Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Alton pub cellar collapse workman 'saved friend's life'

Crown Hotel, Alton Image copyright Google
Image caption Matt Bishop was excavating a cellar under the Crown Hotel in Alton

A workman has described how a colleague saved his life by digging him out of a collapsed tunnel beneath a pub.

Matt Bishop was buried in rubble while extending a cellar under the Crown Hotel in Alton, Hampshire.

In an interview with the BBC, the 24-year-old said he had been left with constant leg pain and flashbacks.

A judge fined the pub's owner, Coronita Ltd, £20,000 earlier this month. Company director, Steve Austen, 62, was given a suspended prison sentence.

'Nails came off'

Mr Bishop said he and his friend Ben Collins, 28, were nearing the end of a three-month job excavating a tunnel leading to a second cellar.

He said: "We heard a cracking noise, like almighty thunder, then the wall slid off."

Image copyright Matt Bishop
Image caption Mr Bishop suffered a broken ankle and shoulder blade

The father-of-three said he was trapped from the right shoulder down by a mixture of clay, stone and mud from a wall, which was not shored.

"Every time I took a breath it compressed my chest and at one stage I stopped breathing and turned purple," he said.

"Ben saved my life by frantically digging me out. All of his nails came off."

Image copyright Matt Bishop
Image caption Ben Collins spent 30 minutes digging his friend out of the rubble

Mr Collins used a power breaker to shift large lumps of solid earth lying across his friend's chest.

Mr Bishop said he was left with a broken ankle and shoulder blade and was unable to walk for several months.

Image copyright East Hampshire District Council
Image caption Inspectors found most of the excavated walls had no support or underpinning

Coronita Ltd and Mr Austen each pleaded guilty before Basingstoke magistrates to failing to carry out a risk assessment and failing to ensure the safety of workers.

The court heard a structural engineer told Mr Austen to stop the work three weeks before the accident, but the warning was ignored.

The defendant was handed a 26-week prison sentence on 4 May, suspended for two years.

Mr Austen, of Vaughans, Alton, declined to comment.

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