No verdict in roofing tragedy case

A jury has failed to reach a verdict in the case of a roofer dad who saw his son plunge to his death as they worked together on a warehouse roof replacing skylights.

The son, 25-year-old Kyle Broadbent accidentally stood on one of the skylights and fell through the roof to his death.

On Friday at Luton Crown Court, his father Tony Broadbent, 61, of High Street, Harrold, was acquitted of his son’s manslaughter.

But the jury still had to consider a second charge alleging the father had failed to discharge his duty as an employer.

On Tuesday, the jury foreman announced they were unable to reach a verdict.

Trial Judge Richard Foster discharged them and the prosecution will now have two weeks to decide if they wish to seek a re-trial.

Kyle Broadbent, an IT worker was helping his dad out as a way of repaying him for a Chelsea Football Club season ticket his father had bought for him.

But tragedy struck as the pair worked on the flat roof of the warehouse replacing old skylights.

Kyle started walking towards his dad and stepped onto a skylight which couldn’t bear his weight and he plunged through the roof and down into the warehouse.

He died of multiple injuries in the fall.

During the five-day trial the prosecution had claimed the father was grossly negligent in his safety procedures.

Mr Broadbent denied the charge of manslaughter and also pleaded not guilty to failing to discharge his duty as an employer.

Kyle died on Saturday, August 18, 2012, at a warehouse in Newport Pagnell owned by Acctim Ltd.

He lived in Milton Keynes and occasionally helped his father but was not a trained roofing contractor.

Prosecutor Iain Wicks told the jury at the opening of the trial this week “This case concerns what can only be called a tragic death, which came about as a result of an accident at work when he fell from a height.”

He said Broadbent Roofing was a one-man business which the father had been running for 30 years.

He had been awarded a contract worth £11,150 to replace old skylights on the warehouse roof, and had done some work during the week but wanted to work over the weekend to make the most of the good weather.

Mr Wicks said: “Only the defendant can account for what happened that day. He told police Kyle was helping him in order to repay the cost of a football season ticket.

“They were both on the roof and he saw Kyle walking towards him and realised in a split second what was about to happen. He called to him to stop but it was too late.

“He had stepped onto one of the brittle skylights they were replacing, and attempted to grab some metal to save himself, but fell to the floor beneath.”

The barrister said he had fallen about seven metres, but the warehouse was locked, and the Fire Brigade had to force their way in before the young man could receive medical attention.

“Sadly the reality is that even without the delay nothing could have been done to save him. He died from multiple injuries.”

Mr Wicks said there were a number of precautions that should have been taken to prevent such a tragedy.

“As a professional, Mr Broadbent should have made sure his systems were in line with the requirements laid down by the industry and by law. He owed a duty of care to his son as he would to any employee.

“This is undoubtedly a tragedy for him, but the uncomfortable truth is it should have been avoided. If you ask what steps did he take, the short answer is none. He showed a wholesale disgregard for health and safety and we say it is grossly negligent.”

The jury were told that among measures which could have been taken were using safety nets under the roof space, wearing a safety harness, and putting barriers around the skylights. There should also have been steps in place to provide urgent assistance to someone in the event of a fall.

The prosecution also allege Mr Broadbent used risk assessment documents from another contractor, which he had copied and pasted his own company name into.

“We say he paid little more than lip service to health and safety concerns. The documents gave an air of respectability to something that was little more than a one-man operation working far below industry standards.

“It is his complacency, lack of care and taking undue risks that cost Kyle Broadbent his life,” said the prosecutor.

In the interview at Milton Keynes Police Station Mr Broadbent told the police how, as a youngster, he had accompanied his own father, who was a roofer, on jobs.

Mr Broadbent told the officer he had used his son “quite a few times” in the past.

He said he had considered the risks associated with the job, which was working on a flat roof, and said from his 30 years of experience he decided falling off the edge or through the roof to be the only ones.

“I can’t see what else I could have done,” he said, adding “I’d thought about things but I didn’t think I had to take other measures,” he said.

As the interview continued he said he was using a “scissor lift” to get onto the roof. The dad told the officer he had asked his son during the previous week “Are you doing anything on Saturday?” and he said they were planning to go to watch Chelsea v Wigan on the Sunday.

On that fateful Saturday morning he said he arrived at the warehouse around 7am and his son arrived an hour later. After coffee together on the ground, during which they talked about football, he said they went onto the roof to start work removing the old skylights.

“We were doing really well. Everything was going really great - the sun was out.”

He described the old skylights as being “bleached” by the sun, which had “cracked them up.” He described his son lifting out the old ones while he was on the other side pulling.

“It was going so well. Then he just forgot himself and just walked on one. He was walking towards me and I spotted it and I shouted ‘Kyle!’”

Sobbing, he then told the officer that Kyle plunged through a skylight.

He said “He managed to grab the metal as if he had got away with it and then he slipped off.”

Mr Broadbent said he used the scissor lift to get back down down to the street and raised the alarm.

Asked if he had done anything to mark out where the skylights were, Mr Broadbent said he hadn’t because it was easy to see where they were.

He was then asked if there were any safety measure he could have put in place to prevent the tragedy and replied “Not to my knowledge.”

In the witness box Mr Broadbent told the jury he had undertaken similar jobs before, including repairing old roof lights in buildings.

Mr Broadbent said he had never seen netting used under the roofs when such work was done.

On the Saturday Kyle arrived at the warehouse to work with him, Mr Broadbent said “I had bought him a season ticket. He was working off his season ticket - I thought I was doing him a favour.”

The dad said he and his son had always supported Chelsea, watching the club in the Premiership as well as the Champions League and when they played in Europe.

“We had some great times,” he told the jury.

The father told the court he felt “guilt” over what had happened that day and he still suffers “flashbacks”.