Partner of quarry worker killed in rock face collapse sues

Two men were sent to collect rocks after shot blasting operation

The partner of a quarry worker who died when a rock face collapsed and covered his vehicle has sued the quarry company in the High Court.

Katja Shaw (46), partner of the deceased, Peter Byrne (45) of Ballycanew Court, Gorey, Co Wexford, has sued Faser Court Ltd, run by brothers James and Patrick Casey, at Coolishall in Gorey, Co Wexford, for alleged negligence, loss of dependency, mental distress and nervous shock.

The case is also against Exsol Ltd, the company which carried out blasting operations on the day of the accident and from which Faser Court seeks an indemnity.

Richard Molloy, of Old Garden City, Gorey, who was Mr Byrne’s work colleague at the quarry, and was injured in the same accident, has also brought separate proceedings.


The claims are denied.

The court heard that on April 1st, 2016, Mr Byrne, driving a tractor digger, and Mr Molloy, driving a dumper, were sent to collect rocks after a shot blasting operation on a southwest-facing cliff. Another 60m-high southeast-facing rock face, which was alleged to have slipped earlier in the year, collapsed while the men were working.

The collapsing rubble engulfed Mr Byrne’s vehicle, while Mr Molloy’s dumper was hit by rocks and he was injured.

Faser Court disputes claims that it was “an accident waiting to happen” because of the condition of the rock face and argues it was the result of vibrations from the blasting of the other cliff face.


Stephen Lanigan O’Keeffe SC, for Ms Shaw and Mr Molloy, said the “awful thing is Mr Byrne did not die from being crushed but from suffocation”. Counsel said Ms Shaw, his partner of 15 years and mother of their daughter, had “the awful nightmare that maybe he could have been saved but he was not got out for three hours”.

Counsel said the immediate concern of the Casey brothers was to protect their interests. Others at the scene were told “No one says anything until we have our stories straight”, he said

“The horror story was not only that this was negligent but criminally negligent because there was an unstable rock surface which had slipped in January or February and it had been covered up but no one should have gone near it,” counsel said.

Before and after photos of the rock face showed that no one should have gone anywhere near it but the two men were sent in, he said.

Counsel said that after the accident Ms Shaw and her daughter were left “in abject poverty”.

Ms Shaw had been in a riding accident a couple of years earlier and had been left with injuries which meant that Mr Byrne had to care for their child as well as work, he said.


Counsel said that in December 2021, Faser Court pleaded guilty to failing to have a geotechnical assessment carried out before the accident as required under health-and-safety regulations governing mining. The company was fined €175,000 in the Circuit Court.

Dr Alan E Cobb, a UK-based geotechnical engineering expert, told the court the accident was going to happen whether or not blasting operations were carried out on the other rock face that day.

There should have been a geotechnical assessment carried out beforehand which would require nobody should have been within 60m of this rock face, he said. The two workmen were between 20 and 40 metres from it, he said.

Cross-examined by Jeremy Maher SC, with Paul O’Neill, for Faser Court, Dr Cobb disagreed that the shot firer on the day had a responsibility for picking up the condition of the collapsed rock face. Dr Cobb said he would have expected the quarry management to have picked it up.

Lillian O’Neill, Health and Safety Authority inspector, said that from her investigations it was an unsafe place to work and a geotechnical assessment was required. She also said there was no evidence of a previous collapse of the southeast face.

The case continues before Mr Justice Paul Coffey.