Our first guest blog comes from sisters Natalie Woods McKeown and Dionne Woods who lost their dad following a fatal injury at work in April 2002, they tell their story about the injustice they faced, the impact it had on their family and why they support the proposals from Claire Baker MSP to reform culpable homicide legislation.
On April 16th, 2002 our dad John Woods went to work and never came home, at the time I was 18 years of age and Dionne was due to turn 13 the following month.
Our world came crashing down that day, we both idolised our dad, he was only 37 years of age had more than half of his life to live, sadly this was not to be and his life was tragically cut short on that fateful day in circumstances we still find hard to talk about.
Dad worked for a local road surfacing company and, on that day, was working at the former ICI plant at Ardeer, near Stevenston in Ayrshire.
In the early part of the afternoon he was operating a road planing machine on his own, he was both driver and second man with his only other colleague driving a reversing tipper truck collecting the spoil from the planing operation.
The process was nearly finished when dad put the machine into crawl and dismounted to clear debris from the machine, we do not know what happened next, but dad became entangled in the rotating drum of the machine and was killed instantly.
Our dad was our life and our lives changed forever on that April afternoon, our family’s grief was compounded by a complete lack of compassion shown by the HSE and others, no one from the HSE contacted our family during, or after the investigation. Furthermore, our lawyer advised us that the Fatal Accident Inquiry would be held in a closed court so we were very much kept in the as far as we were concerned. His employers were never charged with any offence and we were never given an explanation why this was.
The impact of my loss and the way we were treated resulted me having a nervous breakdown and we both still live with the consequences of my dad’s death. By the time I was mentally fit enough to consider litigation for our loss the case was time barred. We were not motivated by the prospect of compensation, but this may have provided a forum to challenge the approach taken by his employers to health and safety and perhaps prevented other families having to suffer as we have had to suffer.
His former employers have had other incidents since where workers and members of the public have been put at risk. I raised my concerns in a letter to the HSE in Scotland, that too was ignored.
I still struggle when I see one of these machines knowing the damage they can do particularly when, only recently, I witnessed the very some company carrying out the very same practices that resulted in the death of our dad.
I am now married with two sons who will never know their grandfather, Dionne will be having a baby in April and getting married later this year, a family celebration that he should have been here to see and be part of, one of many family celebrations that will forever be tinged with sadness because he is not.
Nearly 17 years later we miss our dad each and every day, we must live with the injustice of losing a loving dad with very little understanding of what happened and why no one was held to account.
This is why we are supporting the proposals for Claire Baker MSP to reform the law of culpable homicide to ensure other families are not let down by the justice system as we were.
Natalie and Dionne