Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Friday, 14 May 2010 15:47 UK

Holmes Place gym fined over Polish banker's lift death

Katarzyna Woja
Katarzyna Woja became trapped between the lift and the shaft

A health club and a lift company have been fined £233,000 each after a banker was crushed to death by a lift.

Polish-born Katarzyna Woja, 32, was killed as she stepped out of a lift at Broadgate Health Club in the City of London on 12 March 2003.

She was dragged between a wall and the lift when it suddenly fell a few feet and stopped between two floor levels.

ThyssenKrupp Elevator UK and Holmes Place Health Clubs previously admitted breaking health and safety laws.

Holmes Place admitted three counts of breaching health and safety laws while ThyssenKrup pleaded guilty to a single count.

The lift had dropped the day before the accident and had allegedly been repaired, Southwark Crown Court was told.

Tim Owen QC, prosecuting, said: "This was an accident that didn't come out of the blue, without warning."

'Clear warning signs'

He added that the reason for the drop had never been established, but it was believed to have been either a hydraulic problem or that the lift's mechanisms froze or crashed.

Neither Holmes Place nor ThyssenKrupp responded properly to "clear warning signs" which made it "glaringly obvious" that something was seriously wrong with the lift for months, Mr Owen added.

Between 7 January 2002 and 11 March 2003, there were 41 separate callouts to the lift which killed Ms Woja, compared to an average of three a year for a well-maintained lift, Mr Owen told the court.

Judge Deborah Taylor said there was a "culture of complacency" and "systemic failures" on the parts of both defendants.

In a statement read to the court, Ms Woja's widower Nebojsa Dorontic, 39, said his wife was a "very intelligent and charming young lady".

The statement said: "I not only lost Katarzyna, I also lost a life partner, a wife and a true friend."

William Norris QC, representing Holmes Place which is now owned by Virgin Active, said the gym firm accepted a "legal and moral responsibility for what happened".

Holmes Place did not realise ThyssenKrupp "couldn't be relied upon to do their job properly", he said.

Nicholas Purnell QC, representing ThyssenKrupp, blamed a "breakdown of communication and records which led to a confused state", rather than an "abject failure" on the company's part.

Both firms made public apologies to Ms Woja's family for the first time in court.



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SEE ALSO
Lift firm guilty over gym death
09 Mar 10 |  London
Woman killed as lift falls
12 Mar 03 |  England

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