Culpable Homicide - a betrayal of trust

Most human activity requires a degree of “trust.”  We trust our car is safe after being serviced, we trust that public transport will get us to our destination safely (notwithstanding the fact we know things go wrong from time to time). Nevertheless, we trust our local garage or the transport operator to do everything possible to ensure safety.

Parents in Grenfell Tower on Tuesday night put their beloved children to bed, safe in the knowledge that the building owners and management had done everything possible to ensure the building was safe.  Nonetheless, the powers that be deliberately clad the building in a flammable product, one that had shown severe flammable tendencies in a high rise fire in Camberwell back in 2009. Worse still, they attached the cladding with wooden battens and literally turned the homes of 120 families into an incinerator.

Everyone, from the chief architect down to the contractor is culpable. The idiot who drew up the evacuation plan, telling people to return to their apartments if a fire were in a different part of the building, should be publicly flogged! How a high rise building could be granted appropriate certification without working fire alarms, an absence of sprinkler systems and lack of smoke ventilation beggars belief. Meanwhile, a myopic Britain still regards itself a world leader while allowing state owned properties to be managed to a woeful third world standard. Those in need of housing are initially obliged to trust the entity that provides somewhere to live. That said, tenant bodies have expressed fire dangers to no avail.

Ultimately, circumstances require us to trust others. For example would we take a flight on British Airways? Millions of people travel with them every month and nothing untoward happens. Sadly not so for passengers on Flight 28M, a British Airtours flight out of Manchester on 22 August 1985. Take–off was aborted due to engine failure, the plane caught fire and 53 people lost their lives.

When those fated individuals stepped on to the aircraft en-route to Corfu, they accepted the airline’s implied and express assurances that flying procedures and aircraft maintenance were of the highest standard. Passengers automatically assumed that when parts of an aircraft were damaged or broken, such parts would be routinely replaced. Trust on this occasion was misplaced.

The accident occurred when the left engine’s No 9 combuster can was ejected out of the back of the engine and embedded itself into the wing’s fuel tank. The Boeing repair manual advised operators that canister cracks could be welded, but didn’t specify a length, assuming that only minor deterioration would be welded. Not so with British Airways (owners of British Airtours) whose contractors welded up a split that was several inches long. The tremendous thrust generated in a jet engine, not surprisingly caused the canister to fail at the repair.

It is reasonable to suggest that no-one in their right mind would step on to an aircraft where metal fatigue in an engine had been welded up. A glaring example of deliberate betrayal. Passengers on that flight placed their lives in the hands of an airline who despite resolute assurances of safety compliance, had in fact bodged up a component in order to save a few pennies.  Sadly, 53 passengers paid the ultimate price.

Just as with the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the perpetrators of betrayal should be charged with culpable homicide.

Last modified on Tuesday, 27 June 2017 10:02

Julie Carter

Op-ed article writer

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