Mother of boy who died after falling into open manhole is suing firm

Mother of boy, 10, who died after falling 20ft into open manhole at construction site is suing building firm over safety failures 

  • Shea Ryan, 10, died after falling 20ft down a manhole at a Glasgow building site

A heartbroken mother is suing a building firm over failures that saw her 10-year-old son plunge 20ft down an open manhole to his death.

Shea Ryan, 10, was playing with friends near a park in Drumchapel, Glasgow in July 2020 when he got into a building site through a fence which had not been secured.

The schoolboy’s grieving mum, Joanne Ferguson, is understood to be seeking a six-figure sum in compensation in a civil case against contractor RJ McLeod.

The building company was fined a staggering £860,000 in April after it admitted to breaching health and safety laws by failing to sufficiently assess the risk of people gaining access to the site.

On Friday, solicitors Digby Brown reportedly confirmed that a case has been launched against the firm at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. 

Shea Ryan fell down a manhole on a construction site in Drumchapel, Glasgow on July 16, 2020

Shea’s mum said in the aftermath of the hearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court that she hoped the company and other firms would learn lessons from the tragedy.

The 36-year-old said at the time: ‘My son is not here and that destroys me every day.

‘That totally avoidable accident has ruined my life and my kids’ lives – I don’t even feel human anymore at times because of the grief.

‘I just hope this makes them consider site safety everywhere – not just for RJ McLeod but for companies everywhere because the safety of these places is so important.’

Ms Ferguson thanked the prosecution for ‘holding this company accountable’, the first responders who tried to save Shea’s life and the community for supporting her.

She added: ‘Wee Shea is missed every second of every day and his family and friends will always love and miss him.’

Shea slipped on a ladder inside the hole close to a play park near his home in on July 16, 2020.

Shea was able to get into the Drumchapel, Glasgow construction site (pictured) because the fence around it was not secure

He had entered the construction site through an insecure fence before sitting beside the open cover situated 60 metres from the park. 

The 10-year-old told his friends ‘I want to go down’ before he entered the shaft.

He began to climb down the ladder before he slipped and fell into the water below, the hearing heard. 

The distance between the ladder and the bottom of the manhole was 6.3 metres.

The other children raised the alarm and Shea’s stepdad Graham Patterson entered the manhole. 

Police found Shea lying on his back with Mr Patterson and a neighbour beside him.

Shea (pictured) began to climb down the ladder, slipped and fell into the water below, the hearing heard. His cause of death was found to be ‘head injury and drowning’

‘Shea was seen to have severe head injuries, cold to the touch and was not breathing,’ Prosecutor Saud Ul-Hassan told Glasgow Sheriff Court.

‘An officer brought Shea to the surface and performed CPR before he was taken to the Royal Children’s Hospital, but he could not be saved.

His cause of death was found to be ‘head injury and drowning’.

RJ McLeod (Contractors) Limited was fined in April over safety failings and was ordered to pay a £60,000 victim surcharge. 

Sheriff Matthew Jackson, KC, told the court in April: ‘Nothing this court can do can bring back Shea who was a wonderful son and friend as well as a loss to his family, school and all of us…Everyone can learn from this dreadful mistake.’

In April, building contractor RJ McLeod admitted failing to sufficiently assess the risk of people gaining access to the site at Glasgow Sheriff Court. Pictured: Floral left at the site in 2020 after Shea died

The firm’s defence lawyer Paul Marshall said that the company accepted responsibility which was ‘failing to carry out a sufficient risk assessment on people gaining access to the construction site’.

Speaking at the time, Debbie Carroll, who leads on health and safety investigations for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, said the death of a child was ‘particularly tragic’.

A fatal accident inquiry into Shea’s death is to be held at a later date. 

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