Hamrun house collapse: Excavator used moments before Miriam Pace's death, court told

Construction worker who operated hydraulic excavator at site adjacent to house collapse allegedly told a colleague not to 'say anything', a court has been told

Miriam Pace, seen here in a photo with her husband Carmel, was buried by the rubble of her own house
Miriam Pace, seen here in a photo with her husband Carmel, was buried by the rubble of her own house

The construction worker operating a hydraulic excavator on the ground at the Hamrun construction site next to a home which had just collapsed, allegedly told a colleague not to “say anything” a court has been told.

The house collapse killed Miriam Pace, a mother of two, who was inside when the building came crashing down.

Magistrate Joe Mifsud began hearing the compilation of evidence against four men accused of causing Pace’s death through negligence and of causing damage to third party property.

Architect Roderick Camilleri, site technical officer Anthony Mangion, contractor Ludwig Dimech and labourer Nicholas Spiteri returned to the dock, after being granted bail upon entering not guilty pleas at their arraignment last month.

Inspector Robert Vella, prosecuting, testified this morning. He gave the court an overview of the sequence of events which led to the deadly collapse on 2 March, as well as the subsequent police investigation.

Rescuers took several hours to sift through the rubble before recovering the lifeless body of Miriam Pace
Rescuers took several hours to sift through the rubble before recovering the lifeless body of Miriam Pace

On the morning of the accident, Nicholas Spiteri had been working at the site together with another worker, Erbios Hysa from Albania.

The men had been clearing rubble to make way for excavation works, using an excavator equipped with a bucket. Spiteri had been transporting the rubble off the site, but just before the collapse at around 2pm, he had started using a new piece of excavation machinery, which had a hammer head attached.

Hysa had told the police that Spiteri had been chipping away at the rock layer beneath the showroom next door when the house collapsed, just two to five minutes later.

Inspector Vella exhibited photographs from the scene which showed that the new excavator had been moved to the opposite side of the site, away from the collapsed building.

But the excavator had been captured on CCTV footage as it operated right beneath the showroom, just 22 seconds before the collapse.

Paint fragments matching the collapsed showroom, vehicles inside it and crucially, the interior corridor of the Pace family home were recovered from the rear of the excavator, the court heard.

Cross-examined by defence lawyer Arthur Azzopardi, Inspector Vella said that the evidence showed that the new hammer head had been attached that same morning and was being tested when disaster struck.

Magistrate Mifsud upheld the prosecution’s request to have Spiteri’s mobile phone examined by a court expert to establish what communications were made before and after the incident, amongst other things.

The compilation continues on Monday.

Inspectors Robert Vella and Matthew Galea are prosecuting. Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Alfred Abela are appearing on behalf of the architects. Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are assisting Spiteri. Lawyers Michael Sciriha, Roberto Montalto, Lucio Sciriha and Franco Galea are counsel to Dimech.

The Pace family were represented by lawyers Joe Giglio and David Bonello. Lawyer Stefano Filletti is assisting other neighbours.

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