Structural deficiencies were reason for Kordin collapse that killed Jean Paul Sofia

Site management by WhatsApp: A fatal story of structural deficiencies and untrained workers that killed Jean Paul Sofia in Kordin last December

Deficiencies in the structural design of the building in Kordin led to the construction collapse that killed Jean Paul Sofia last December.

According to the magisterial inquiry into his death, the primary cause of the collapse was the structural design of the building.

The inquiry said the design failed to consider aspects such as wall stability or building resilience to prevent a catastrophic collapse in the case of an accident.

The wall configurations and wide openings on two sides meant that the taller wall on the side of the building was structurally weak.

Five people have since been charged with the involuntary homicide of Jean Paul Sofia, who died after the building collapsed on 3 December 2022.

The accused are: Matthew Schembri, 38, company director, from Birkirkara; Kurt Buhagiar, 39, employee from Naxxar; Adriana Zammit, 35 from Zabbar, architect; Milomir Jovicevic, 39, a construction worker and his wife Dijana, 39, with him a director in Milmar Construction Ltd.

The five were accused of causing the death of Jean Paul Sofia and injury to five other workers, now identified as Vladimir Laketic, Gentjan Carku, Lulzim Carku, Denis Carku, and Sammy David Curtis; and negligently caused a grievous injury to the five workers. 

The nature of the collapse

The inquiry conclusions suggest that the wall of the construction site fell moments before the roof started to collapse. “This is in conformity with the hypothesis that the collapse was not an internal one, from the roof, because otherwise the fresh concrete would have collapsed towards the middle.”

Photos presented in the inquiry suggest that the building collapsed outwards, rather than inwards.

Another photo shows that the planned double walls were not tied together, as required in good workmanship. “This shortcoming has structural significance, because, in terms of lateral stiffness, a double wall tied together is four times stronger than two walls built next to each other.”

More photos show that the metal bars over which concerete is laid were neither tied to the respective adjacent structures, thus reducing the building’s ‘resilience’ in the case of an accident.

The inquiry also points to a spreader beam mentioned in the construction plans drawn up by the architect. However, what was missing were instructions for the spreader beam to be tied to the metal bars between the concrete planks.

Since the outside structure was not ‘tied’ together properly, pressure from the overlying concrete planks would have pushed the walls outwards.

The fact that there was no interlocking system tying the walls to other parts of the structure meant that the moment one wall started to collapse, the whole site was going to go down with it.

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