FOUR women looking at a hotel bridal suite they were hoping to auction off were left with life-changing injuries when the adjoining balcony collapsed while they were standing on it.
A court heard the ladies, who were at the West Yorkshire hotel with the “best of motives”, suffered, among many other injuries, a fractured skill, a fractured back, a shattered eye socket, PTSD, a chipped pelvis, a broken leg and one even lost a kidney.
Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said: “These were four healthy ladies who have been very, very seriously affected by something that should not have happened.”
The court heard the balcony had no building regulator consent or approval and the holes in the wall for the bolts were too large, making it “inadequately affixed to the wall”.
That along with the extra weight of a recently added glass balustrade and five people standing on it caused it to come away.
Just before disaster stuck and the “cowboy” constructed steel and glass first floor platform fell to the ground in February 2013, one of the women asked the owner of the Casa Hotel and Restaurant if the balcony was safe.
When asked if the balcony was strong enough, Jack McDaid said “Yes, its sound”.
At Bradford Crown Court, Judge Durham Hall said: “But it wasn’t and these ladies and Mr McDaid fell.”
Mr McDaid was hospitalised for several months following the incident on February 15 at the hotel in Brighouse.
He is the director of Castelite Limited who, along with Casa Events Limited, pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches were sentenced and fined following a trial of issue.
Simon Uttley, prosecuting, said the woman were parents and friends of Highbury School in Rastrick and were looking a the bridal suite as something they could auction off at a charity ball.
They were named in court as Vanessa Reynolds, Donna Waterhouse, Norma Mazeika and Michelle Mallinson.
Judge Durham Hall said: “They were there for the best of motives to see to what extent they could, as it where, enhance their fundraising and social event.”
The court heard that Vanessa recalls stepping on to the balcony and hearing Michelle ask “is it safe” before, suddenly, there was “a loud crack” and then they were on the ground.
Vanessa suffered serious injuries and had to have her kidney removed, she returned to work over a year later and has to have further blood tests.
Donna sufferer serious head injuries and a fractured femur and had to have several operations and a bone graft, she has a plate in her arm and a large scar.
The court heard Norma followed Mr McDaid out onto the right corner of the balcony and she felt it was unsteady, then she was on the ground.
She suffered a catalogue of injuries such as extensive head and neck injuries, including a fractured skull, a chipped pelvis, her right eye socket shattered, and injured knee.
Mum of two boys Norma has had seven operations to date and was in a wheelchair for three months. She suffers constant pain and has trouble sleeping, the court was told.
Michelle, who asked if it was safe just before she fell, broke her leg, fractured her spine and hurt her knee. She has since required several operations.
The court heard mum Michelle has been diagnosed with PTSD, can’t sleep and has to use a mobility scooter to go shopping.
Castelite Limited previously pleaded guilty to one health and safety breach, failing to ensure the balcony was safe and without risk for visitors and staff.
And Casa Events Limited, who were effectively running the hotel owned by Castelite Limited, pleaded guilty to two similar breaches.
Mr McDaid said the balcony had been by a local fabricator Graham Robinson.
This was a fact Mr Robinson strongly denied, saying he had only been asked to put on a steel balustrade around the existing balcony platform as a favour.
Giving evidence, Mr Robinson said he would “not have done a whole balcony and a balustrade as a favour”.
Judge Durham Hall didn’t believe he had out up the whole balcony, saying: “I reject Mr McDaid’s claim it was all done by Mr Robinson.
“Mr McDaid I regret to say I am sure you had the work done by somebody using the more expensive professional design but no doubt on the cheap and not by Mr Robinson.”
Before fining the companies, the judge said: “The failures of Castelite Limited are very grave indeed”.
The judge added this was a “very serious breach” that “was wholly for financial gain” and creating “an enormous risk.”
Judge Durham Hall went on to say: “This is not a death case by a miracle.”
Speaking about Mr McDaid, he said: “He has fallen victim again to his own corner cutting, cost saving, reckless indifference to safety.
“Clamping on that balcony in this cowboy fashion, even though he believed it was safe, has put at risk the lives of these ladies.”
Castelite Limited was fined £75k for the health and safety breach and £15k costs along with another £5k fine for a planning offence and £5k costs.
Casa Events Limited was fined £15k in total for both breaches.