As Helen McTeague turned the key in her front door her heart sank. There were family photographs lining the walls and the house was as she left it a few days before when she had to drop everything and run to the hospital bedside of her husband Steven who lay seriously ill after a workplace accident and would later die.
The meat she had taken out of the freezer that Thursday morning was still on the draining board, that family meal for the couple and their two children Conor and Ryan never happened and sitting on the floor by the side of his chair were the 51-year-old’s slippers, never to be worn again.
Life for the McTeague family had been changed immeasurably in an instant after Steven, an employee at Terex Global GB Ltd in Omagh, died at their premises on Killyclogher Road in July 2016.
Last week the company was charged with corporate manslaughter and fined £150,000 for failings which resulted in Mr. McTeague’s death, including failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all employees; failing to ensure others were not exposed to risk, and failing to make suitable and sufficient risk assessments.
Mr. McTeague was tasked with moving one of the machines, using a hand-held controller, from its parked position in the stockyard. During this operation the front of the machine veered towards a neighbouring parked machine, causing Mr McTeague to become trapped and suffered fatal injuries.
The Health and Safety Executive Inspector Kyle Carrick said in a statement that the tragic death “could easily have been avoided”.
The reality for his family is that life must go on without him but his passing is that bit more difficult with the almost daily reminders that he is no longer here, says his wife Helen, from Brookeborough.
“Losing Stevie in such an unexpected and traumatic way has been very hard to come to terms with and is an ongoing process. Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays are hard but it’s the little things that floor me; cards without his name, a song on the radio or his favourite food in the shop.
“Stevie shouldn’t have died like he did. Better health and safety measures and risk assessments could have prevented his death. That he died needlessly makes us incredibly angry. We hope that lessons are learned by employers so that no other family has to suffer like we have,” Mrs. McTeague told The Impartial Reporter.
She said little did she know on the morning of July, 14 2016 that her life, and that of her family, was never going to be the same again.
“By that afternoon we were gathered together at South West Acute Hospital waiting on news. Stevie had been trapped between two quarry crusher machines and suffered crush injuries to his upper body.
“The next few days passed by in a blur as Stevie remained unconscious in intensive care. The care and attention he got was excellent but on Saturday afternoon we were given the news that no family ever want to hear; Stevie had no brain function and it was only the machines that were keeping him alive. We had to accept the fact that he was gone.”
Mrs. McTeague, who worked at the former Fermanagh District Council from 1987 until 2001, said she couldn’t even describe the sense of “devastation” that she and her family felt at that moment. She was working at her father’s family business, Thomas Hanna and Co in Brookeborough when she received news of the accident.
After his death and following some discussion the family decided to donate some of Mr. McTeague’s organs, including his kidneys and liver which resulted in three lives being saved.
“It has taken almost three years for us to get the answers to what exactly happened that day. Our lives have been shattered, our hopes and dreams for the future are gone,” she said.
In a statement issued after the proceedings Terex GB offered their “most sincere condolences to Steven’s family, friends and workmates”.
“Steven was a highly valued team member and friend, and his absence has been deeply felt”.
The company said that it has always taken “the health and safety of its employees extremely seriously.
“We have cooperated fully with the investigation into this tragic accident and will continue to work closely with the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland.
“Terex has also taken additional steps to ensure that an accident such as this does not occur again by further strengthening our health and safety guidance and training. We are deeply committed to providing the safest possible workplace environment for all of our team members.”
Mrs. McTeague described her husband as “my best friend” and “the one person who truly understood me.”
“I haven’t just lost Stevie, I’ve lost the me I was when he was alive. We had been together for 28 years and were planning for our upcoming silver wedding anniversary. Our lives at that time were the happiest they’d ever been.
“Our boys were 22 and 20 and had an exceptionally close relationship with their dad. As a mother watching your children suffer and being powerless to do anything to help them is heart breaking. We continue to struggle on a daily basis but as time passes we get better at putting on a face for the world,” she told this newspaper.
Source – https://www.impartialreporter.com/news/17756933.company-39-s-150k-fine-39-pittance-39-losing-best-friend-says-widow/