Corporate manslaughter verdict after grandfather died following lift shaft fall

Daily Echo: Courtenay Allan Courtenay Allan

THE FAMILY of a Southampton man who died after plunging 60ft down a lift shaft have spoken of their relief after the company he was working for was found guilty of corporate manslaughter.

Hong Kong- based container shipping company OOCL was found guilty of the charge and fined €50,000 after a French court delivered its verdict yesterday.

For the family of Courtenay Allan it marks the end of a battle for justice lasting more than a decade.

The 53-year-old grandfather died following an accident on board the OOCL Montreal container ship in the Port of Le Havre almost 11 years ago to the day on July 3, 2003.

The firm was charged by the French authorities in late 2012 with manslaughter by clumsiness, inattention, negligence or breach of duty of care or safety.

In Mr Allan's case, it related to making changes in the operation of an elevator, causing his unintentional death - a charge OOCL denied.

As reported by the Daily Echo from the court case held in France in May, the loyal company employee of 37 years had been hosting a reception for key guests during the liner's maiden voyage when the accident happened.

The court at the Palais De Justice in Le Havre heard how the OOCL senior executive, who two years earlier had survived the attack on the Twin Towers whilst he was based in the firm's New York offices, had walked through an open elevator door and plummeted six floors from the bridge on to the top of a lift car.

Mr Allen, who lived in Southampton and West End before moving to Essex shortly before his death, suffered horrific internal injuries and died the following day in hospital.

After the verdict was delivered Mr Allen's sons Ben, 38, Hayden, 34, along with brother Tristan, 36, spoke of their desire for closure after the case.

"After 11 years of campaigning for justice we are pleased that OOCL have finally been held responsible for our father's premature death. Having worked for the company for over 37 years, we didn't expect OOCL to go to the lengths they did to cover up the facts and drag out the painful process.

“We always said we would battle to the very end to achieve justice for our father's death and have never given up despite the obstacles put in our way.”

The company can now appeal the verdict. In a statement, OOCL's spokesman Stephen Ng, said:

"While OOCL believes that closure of this long running matter would be in the best interests of all concerned; as the reason for the judgment is not out yet, our lawyers are unable to advise the company if an appeal against the Judgment should be considered"

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