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£1m payout for site fall

NEWS - Unsafe equipment and lack of safety back-up leads to pre-trial settlement for snooped-on engineer

A LIFT engineer who survived a 50 m fall down a shaft at Canary Wharf has been awarded nearly £1 million for his injuries.

Investigators from lift manufacturer Kone's insurers spied on Gary Smith, even though he underwent more than 20 operations following the accident in 2001. Snoops employed by insurance giant Zurich followed Mr Smith, looking for evidence that he was exaggerating his injuries.

His solicitor, Kevin Finneran of Michelmore's, said: 'Given the horrific circumstances of the accident and the severity of Gary's injuries, it is ludicrous that Kone's insurers should have regarded him as a malingerer.' Mr Smith was checking a lift from a maintenance platform when the supporting rope snapped, plunging him 11 f loors downwards. A motor weighing 110 lbs which had been on the platform also fell on top of him.

The accident happened at night and Mr Smith lay bleeding and semi-conscious in the pitch black for five hours until the morning shift raised the alarm.

During the rescue, the fire brigade knocked an access hole in the wall four f loors above him, showering him with debris.

And when they eventually broke through the basement wall, Mr Smith was hit on the head with a hammer.

He was taken to Whitechapel Hospital in east London, where he remained for eight weeks, suffering multiple injuries to both legs and to his shoulder.

Mr Smith now suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder.

During the next five years he faces at least five more operations and there is a 10 per cent chance he may need his left leg amputated.

Both sides agreed a £977,659 compensation deal before the case hit the High Court.

Mr Finneran said Kone admitted liability after it was accepted Mr Smith had been working with unsafe equipment and that the maintenance platform should have been supported by a secondary braking system.

A Zurich statement said: 'Surveillance evidence was obtained which showed the claimant was more mobile than his expert evidence had suggested, although ultimately it played little part in the discussions.'