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Guilty agency "deeply distressed" by buyer's 30-foot fall at viewing

The estate agency which was fined £200,000 after a prospective house buyer fell 30 feet into a well during a viewing says it is “deeply distressed” by the incident.

Antony Bulley, managing director of Strakers agency at Devizes in Wiltshire, told the BBC that directors and staff had been "deeply distressed" after a 39 year old woman fell into the well during a property viewing at Malmesbury last April.

”We wish to make it known that Strakers have carried out extensive internal investigations and have fully cooperated with the Health and Safety Executive throughout, culminating in a plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity presented” said Bulley.

He added that the company's aim was "to ensure that everything possible is done to avoid any similar incident occurring in the future to any member of the public or our staff”.

Swindon Magistrates Court heard how, during an open house viewing, the prospective buyer stepped onto a wooden board covering a well. 

The board gave way and she fell 30 feet down the well, where she became submerged by water. A hosepipe was thrown to the woman and she managed to secure it around her waist but it was another hour before she was rescued from the well. 

The incident left the victim with head injuries, including concussion, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found the agency had been warned that the well and the board that was covering it did not look safe. The company did not properly investigate if there was a risk of people falling down the well when they were viewing the property.

Strakers (Holdings) Limited of Market Place, Devizes, Wiltshire pleaded guilty to breaching section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,474.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Matthew Tyler said: “This incident could have easily become a fatal tragedy. If, when warned, of the unsafe well the company had properly checked to see if it was secure the trauma this individual has gone through could have been prevented.

“Employers must check the risks associated with their work to protect their workers and members of the public they have contact with. Once they have identified any risks they can take practical steps to control them.”


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