Luton water company fined £100k over Luton dad's death in unsecured hole

A water company in Luton has been fined £100,000 after a dad-of-two fell down an unsecured hole in the town.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 3:59 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st July 2021, 4:18 pm
Tributes were left at the scene on Devon Road
Tributes were left at the scene on Devon Road

Matthew Wilmot, 40, died on July 28, 2017, after falling down the excavated pit near his home in Devon Road, Luton

Luton Crown Court heard that M&S Water Services (Utilities) Ltd, based in York Street, Luton, had been digging on the footpath earlier that day in order to access a stop tap that needed replacing.

The stop tap could not be reached by hand and it was left unsecured, with only a few plastic barriers around it until a deep dig team could attend a few days later.

The scene of the tragedy

Mr Wilmot, who was walking home after watching the FA Cup match in town, tragically died after falling into the excavation site. His body was found the next morning.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that a suitable risk assessment had not been carried out.

The HSE added the site should have had secure fencing and a back filling or covering, as the manhole was to be left unattended for five days and there was no easy alternative for nearby residents.

M&S Water (Utilities) Ltd were found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. They were fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £50,238.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Alison Ashworth said: “This tragic incident could have been avoided if the risks had been properly assessed and simple precautions put in place.”

Mr Wilmot's partner Tania Banks previously said that putting up the fencing earlier would have avoided the tragedy, saying: “The barriers shouldn’t have been that easily movable and I cannot believe that there was no plastic board covering the hole.”

Paying tribute to him, she said: “He was a roofer and the main bread-winner for our family.

“He liked his football, he and his son were season ticket holders at Luton Town FC.

“He literally did everything for us, he was very much a family man, he loved his kids.”

Matthew left behind his son Liam and daughter Lauren.