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Court hears of trench collapse fear

A colleague of a Cheltenham geologist who died in a pit when it collapsed in on him has told a jury he would have been nervous doing the dead man’s job.

Alex McIver worked in the same company as Alexander Wright, 27, who was alone in the 3.8m deep and unsupported pit testing when it caved in at a development site in Brimscombe Lane, near Stroud, Gloucs, in September 2008.

McIver, who worked in the laboratory of Cotswold Geotechnical (Holdings) Ltd, said he had seen Wright enter pits at least 2.4m deep, although he had only entered pits around 1m deep for his job.

He told Winchester Crown Court: “I would have been nervous going down [into the pit] myself but I would have assumed he [Wright] would have known the risks himself. He had more experience in that sort of thing.”

McIver explained he did not work for the company anymore but he got on well with Wright who he described to the jury as “competent and qualified”.

“I believe he would not have gone into a pit unless he thought it was safe to do so,” he said.

No-one is in the dock during the three-week trial but Cotswold Geotechnical (Holdings) Ltd denies the corporate manslaughter of Wright.

The prosecution is under the new Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 that came into force in April 2008 as the company is a legal entity.

Earlier, Mark Ellison QC, prosecuting, said Wright from Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, was working alone when his boss, and the company’s managing director, Peter Eaton, left.

The plot owners, Mark Clubb and his partner Carly Fields, were still on site at the time of the accident. Ellison said they heard “an odd muffled noise and then a cry for help” but despite attempts, Clubb was unable to save Wright who died from asphyxia as he was buried by the soil.

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