‘Jacks Wall’ depositions dispel Stewart’s claims
Recent suggestions by structural engineer Glenford Stewart that he was not given an opportunity to tell his story during the inquest into the death of Patricia Jack-Bowman are not supported by the depositions from the case.
On Friday, September 19, 2008, 67-year-old Patricia Jack-Bowman lost her life when a huge section of a retaining wall at Ratho Mill, owned by Alex Jack, broke and buried the car in which she was travelling. The wall was designed by Stewart Engineering, of which Stewart is owner.
On November 11, 2015, while speaking at a forum of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Stewart, a minister of works under the former NDP administration said that the coroner in the case did not want to hear his testimony. He also made allegations of jury tampering.
“The coroner, when I was giving evidence, the coroner said she doesn’t want to hear my evidence. I want to know…and you talk about justice in this country well my name is Glen Stewart and as far as Stewart Engineering is concerned you can’t touch me.”
The coroner in the case was Sonya Young, who was chief magistrate at the time.
SEARCHLIGHT has obtained depositions from the inquest and it shows that Stewart gave two lengthy testimonies on May 26, 2009 and on September 18, 2009.
During these two testimonies, Stewart gave his version of the events that led to the collapse of the wall. His firm, Stewart Engineering Ltd also submitted a written report on the landslide and retaining wall failure.
In his testimony on May 26, 2009, Stewart said that at the end of 1994, he was hired by Alex Jack of Ratho Mill to design a retaining wall at Jack’s Ratho Mill property. He said that he got approval for the plans from the Physical Planning board in 1995 and construction began. In his testimony, Stewart said that the wall took four to five years to complete and during that time he was involved with the construction of the wall.
“During the construction, I spoke to the contractors whenever I went to visit or inspect the work,” said Stewart in his testimony. He added that he supervised every aspect of the construction of the wall and that the wall took a long time to build because of the location.
“Whenever I inspected the wall during construction, I was satisfied with the quality of the work up to completion,” stressed the engineer in his testimony.
Speaking at Democrat House on Wednesday, November 11, Stewart commented: “Let me tell you a little history about Jack’s wall. I designed an 18-foot wall that did not collapse. The owners of the property extended the wall 12 feet to 30 feet high using block work. That block work was supposed to be a fence wall, not a retaining wall. They backfilled that wall with soil and when the rains came, the top portion of the wall fell and crushed the poor lady,” said Stewart.
However, in relation to the 12-foot extension, Stewart in his deposition said, “the original design plan was for a stone wall. The first 20ft or so was constructed of reinforced rubble masonry. At the top of that wall there was a reinforced concrete capping beam anchored back every 8 to 10 feet into firm ground by reinforced beams. These beams were made of concrete and steel. On top of this structure the reinforced concrete block was built. The block wall was not part of the original design plan.”
Stewart said in the deposition that the 12-foot addition was needed as a safety barrier if the client wanted to top the back filling at that point, or if the client continued to backfill, the wall would help to contain the materials placed. He said he was consulted on the incorporation of the extended wall and that on the completion of the extended wall, he inspected it and was satisfied.
In the depositions, Stewart gave details from the day the construction of the wall began to when it was finished. In his testimony, he also noted, “I was not surprised that the wall broke within 10 years after construction, because the wall was designed for certain conditions which are considered normal practice.
“… A retaining wall of this magnitude is expected to last at least 50 years under normal circumstances. This was to do with the natural ageing process of the materials used in construction. Even after construction I inspected the wall as part of my duties to ensure that it continued to be structurally sound. I found no cracks or any other problems. It is my opinion that the wall collapsed because of the landslide caused by exceptional rainfall.”
While making his remarks at the NDP function on November 11, Stewart said, “but you want to hear something else, this government appointed an inquest to inquire into the situation, but they selected the jury, they selected the jurors…, write it down, record it, record this, “I want to know who they were trying to save, because at the Coroner’s Inquest, you cannot find anyone guilty because no one has been charged…you check it out, the Coroner, when I was giving evidence the Coroner said she doesn’t want to hear my evidence.”
At the conclusion of the inquest, the five jurors found that the late Patricia Jack-Bowman, “came to her death as a result of manslaughter caused by an accident, due to negligence on the part of Stewart Engineering and the contractors.”
But although Stewart Engineering and the contractors were found to be negligent, no charges were laid.
Young, a judge in Belize is said to be looking at her options as it relates legal action against Stewart for his comments.(LC)