Signmaker Had No Building Qualification in Grocon Wall Collapse

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015
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A signmaker with no building qualifications built a wooden wall attached to a brick wall that collapsed and killed three people in Melbourne’s CBD.

Jonathon Clyde Westmoreland, 30, appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court charged with working without a permit in October 2011 on the wall, which fell over 17 months later in high winds.

Teenage siblings Alexander and Bridget Jones of Melbourne and Frenchwoman Marie-Faith Fiawoo, 33, were killed when a 15-metre-long section of the brick wall fell onto Swanston Street in March 2013.

Westmoreland did not speak in the hearing but prosecutor Paul Holdenson QC outlined the case in court, saying the signmaker and three workers had fixed plywood sheets along the brick wall.

Mr Holdenson said Westmoreland had given a statement to WorkSafe after the accident saying: “Had there been any issues with the integrity of the wall at the time I would have voiced my concerns.”

Mr Westmoreland started a carpentry apprenticeship at 21 but went back to sign making 12 months later, so has no formal trade qualifications.

Aussie Signs contracted Mr Westmoreland’s brother to do the work, who passed it onto him, the court was told.

He told the authority he understood there was a permit for working on the footpath, but did not ask whether a permit was needed for building work.

Mr Westmoreland said he contacted Victoria Police and WorkSafe after he found out about the wall collapse, the court was told.

“I am totally distraught by the incident. I have questioned myself every day since,” he said in statements, read to the court.

The Wandin North man said he had not affixed signs to brick walls himself before, but he had put them on timber struts others had put on walls.

He said he used dynabolts to connect timber struts to the brick wall, which later collapsed under 100km/h winds, the court was told.

Three men who worked with Mr Westmoreland gave evidence they had been given a safety briefing by a man from site-owner Grocon before starting work on the wall, the court was told.

The hearing continues on Tuesday in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

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