Injured man says Killarney hotel lift collapse was like a horror movie

A man who was injured when a lift in a Killarney hotel collapsed says the incident was like a horror movie.

Paul Meehan says he spent years trying to forget the incident in the Plaza Hotel Killarney on July 9th 2011, but is now forced to relive it.

He was giving evidence in the trial of Ellickson Engineering Ltd of Kilmurry, Co Waterford, who installed the lift in 2004.

The company faces trial for a breach of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act for failing to install a safety electrical system in the lift and for failing to ensure that nothing about the way it was erected made it unsafe.

There’s no representative in court for Ellickson, but the trial began yesterday at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court; it’s permitted to proceed under the Companies Act with a not guilty plea entered on behalf of the company.

Kilell Ltd, which acquired the trading name and premises of Ellickson Engineering Ltd from a receiver in 2011, are not being prosecuted.

Paul Meehan, his brothers Andrew and Kevin, and their wives Patricia O’Leary and Jenny Wong had travelled from Meath and Kildare on July 9th 2011; they were staying in the Plaza but attending a wedding in another Killarney hotel.

They went to the church ceremony, then returned to the Plaza by car, parked in the lower basement and called the lift; this Daldoss Easylife Lift covered four floors – from the lower basement, to the upper ground level where they trying to get to.

They said the lift went to the upper ground level but the doors didn’t open as it appeared not to be able to dock; there was a bang and the lift fell a few feet, before they heard another loud noise like a cable snapping and the lift went into freefall, falling to the basement.

The lift filled with dust and shattered glass, and part of the roof came in.

Paul Meehan, a member of the Gardaí, says the incident has had a profound effect on his life; he can no longer play football or run marathons.

Andrew, also a Garda, suffered broken bones in both legs, had to undergo an 11-hour surgery which involved the use of synthetic bone, and is in chronic pain daily, with his mobility greatly affected.

His wife Patricia O’Leary, also a Garda, felt her leg break on impact; the bone didn’t knit properly, and two years later she had to have her leg effectively re-built.

Both she and her husband were wheelchair-bound for several months, were unable to care for their children who were aged three years and 11-months at the time, and had to hire home help.

Kevin Meehan suffered fractured vertebrae, his left ankle and right heel, and said his
wife Jenny Wong has been badly affected psychologically.

It’s alleged safety switches to manoeuvre the lift and allow for its maintenance were never put in place by Ellickson Engineering Ltd, and therefore it was unsafe for employees and customers.

The trial continues today.