21st August 2018
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New delay for accident inquiry

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By RYAN TAYLOR

A fatal accident inquiry into the death of Brae builder James Thomson has been delayed for a fourth time.

The latest postponement is to allow the manufacturer of an expanding can of foam which exploded and killed Mr Thomson in March 2007 to carry out more tests on the product.

Representatives from the canister’s Swiss manufacturer Polypag AG say they need until 9th April before they can make figures ascertained from new examinations available to the court in Lerwick.

However, it will be almost another two weeks after that before Polypag’s latest findings will be translated from German and distributed to all parties concerned for examination, meaning the inquiry will not start again until 21st April.

Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said it appeared the company was carrying out further tests following evidence given by Dr John White of the Health and Safety Executive, who called into question previous evidence given by Polypag’s chemical technician Torsten Kellner when he took to the stand in January.

Dr White had disagreed with Mr Kellner’s view that introducing water to the chemical mix during the production process would result in an instant reaction.

He also disputed claims by Polypag the transfer of heat from the top part of a canister to the bottom part would result in a build-up of pressure and a subsequent explosion, adding he thought it would be the other way round.

“From what I understand they [Polypag] are producing a report as opposed to a simple response to the questions put to them,” Mr MacKenzie said.

Solicitor Chris Dowle, who represents Mr Thomson’s father Dennis, said he doubted whether he could accept new information being put forward to the inquiry.

“If more material is being introduced, it’s not just a question as to how it should be heard but whether it should be heard at all,” Mr Dowle said.

Sheriff Graeme Napier said the inquiry should wait and see what the material is before deciding the next step.

Mr Thomson died two years ago when a can of Evo-Stik foam manufactured by Polypag on behalf of Bostick exploded into his chest and abdomen as he held it in his hands while helping to build a house in Levenwick.

The 26-year-old had been sealing new windows with the foam, which had been heated gently by an electric fan heater in the room before being applied to the window frames.

The official inquiry into his death began last August, but was delayed after just two days until January when questions arose about the can’s production process and safety record which only Polypag could answer.

In the new year Polypag defended the safety record and insisted their manufacturing process was foolproof.

However, sheriff Napier called for Mr Kellner to answer further questions after hearing answers from Dr White.

Evidence from the Health and Safety Executive has suggested the explosion could be down to a manufacturing fault, as the fan heater used could not produce enough power to result in an explosion – despite assumptions before the inquiry began the blast happened because the can had been heated up to improve the flow of the foam.

Despite a failure to reach a conclusion, Mr Thomson’s family have at least been told his death had not been his own fault.

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About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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