Confusing construction industry regulations partly to blame for Ħamrun house collapse, court hears

Court appointed expert Architect Alex Torpiano testifies in court, saying that the house collapse that claimed the life of Miriam Pace was in part down to "the state of confusion" in industry regulations

A leading architect has told a court that the collapse of a house in Ħamrun that claimed the life of Miriam Pace was partly down to “the state of confusion in the industry’s regulations.”

Alex Torpiano was testifying in proceedings against the two architects responsible for the building site next door to Pace’s family home, 36-year old Roderick Camilleri and 72-year old Anthony Mangion.

Pace tragically lost her life when excavation works at the building site had caused the neighbouring property to collapse, killing the 54-year old mother-of-two.

Torpiano, a court expert appointed by the magisterial inquiry into the 2020 fatality was blunt in his reply to questions by the architects’ lawyer Arthur Azzopardi. Torpiano said that the incident reflected “the state of confusion of the industry's regulations".

Prior to any construction project, due attention had be given to the plans of any adjacent building, Torpiano said, adding that “the detection of an unbounded wall should ring an alarm bell,” he said.

Court expert Mario Buttigieg also testified today, telling magistrate Joe Mifusd about his conclusions, having inspected the accident site and finding the “hammer” of the construction machinery penetrating the rock.

Marks on the ground indicated the semi-circular path taken by the tracked hydraulic excavator as it moved away from the wall beneath the Pace residence to the opposite side of the construction site.

Buttigieg said that footage capturing the moment of the incident showed that the building had come down right when the machine was about to move backwards.

He added that the excavating machine appeared to have been used with its arm fully extended, increasing the risk of collapse.

“Was it because he feared that something might collapse upon him” asked lawyer Arthur Azzopardi. “I cannot say that,” he replied.

Another witness, Chris Zarb from MCZM Ltd, the company behind the Ħamrun construction project, opted not to testify after being informed by the prosecution that they could not yet exclude the possibility of criminal action being taken in his regard.

Zarb was assisted by lawyer Giannella de Marco and Michael Grech.

Magistrate Joseph Mifsud informed the parties this morning that an application had been filed by the Chamber of Architects, requesting a copy of the proces-verbal of this case.

He said he was not inclined to uphold the request, as this would create a parallel investigation whilst proceedings were ongoing.

The defence and prosecution lawyers also objected to the request, saying that the law was clear in that the records of a criminal case were only to be made accessible to the parties, and that this did not include the Chamber of Architects.

The case continues on 11 March.

Superintendent Robert Vella and Inspector Matthew Galea prosecuted.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi is appearing on behalf of the architects.

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