Leicestershire company fined £2m and co-owners jailed after yard workers drown in tanker full of pig feed

·4-min read

The co-owners of a food waste recycling company have been jailed and the firm fined £2million after two employees drowned in a road haulage tanker full of semi-liquid pig feed.

Nathan Walker, 19, died after climbing into the tanker and getting into trouble at Greenfeeds Ltd in Normanton, Leicestershire, on 22 December, 2016 - 15 days before his first child, a son, was born.

Fellow yard worker Gavin Rawson, 35, lost his life after bravely jumping in to rescue the teenager 'with no thought for his own safety', Leicester Crown Court heard.

Co-owner Gillian Leivers, 60, was jailed for 13 years while her husband, Ian Leivers, 59, was handed 20 months behind bars.

Gillian Leivers showed a "blatant disregard for a high risk of death" while in charge of staff at the company, which had no safe method of working, no training, no risk assessments and no records relating to the cleaning of the inside of its tankers.

Workers expressed concerns about potential dangers but were ignored.

The company - which produced bio-fuel and pig feed from recycled materials but is now in liquidation - was convicted of corporate manslaughter following a six-week trial at the court.

Gillian Leivers, from Newark, Northamptonshire, was also found guilty of a separate health and safety offence and banned from being a company director for 15 years during a sentencing hearing on Thursday.

'It was obvious that the yard staff hated cleaning tankers internally'

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Fraser told her: "Your negligent conduct was both continued and repeated over a long period of time.

"It was obvious that the yard staff hated cleaning tankers internally, and made complaints to you about it, including requesting breathing apparatus that was not provided.

"You simply ignored these issues. You showed a blatant disregard for a very high risk of death resulting from your negligent conduct. I am also of the view that your behaviour was motivated by avoiding the cost of implementing proper safety measures."

Both men were pulled from the tanker after a saw was used to cut holes in the sides but they died at the scene of the tragedy.

A post-mortem concluded they died after drowning in the animal feed, having been overcome by toxic fumes and a lack of oxygen.

'Courageous decision cost Gavin his life'

Hailing Mr Rawson's courage, the judge said: ""He must have seen Nathan from the top hatch, and with no thought for his own safety, bravely entered the tanker in order to rescue him.

"That courageous decision cost Gavin his life. He suffered the same fate as Nathan almost immediately, becoming overcome by the gas and losing consciousness.

"The method that had been adopted at Greenfeeds for years, which the senior management knew and indeed approved, was simply climb in, clean the tanker; take your chances," the judge added.

Ian Leivers was found guilty of a Health and Safety at Work Act breach as a director of Greenfeeds Ltd.

Transport manager Stewart Brown, 69, from Mansfield, was sentenced to a year in prison, suspended for two years, for failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of others.

Nathan 'so excited about becoming a dad'

Relatives of Mr Walker described him as "loving and affectionate", as well as a "family-oriented person" and "amazing big brother.

"Nathan was so excited about becoming a dad. He should have been here to see his son born. He should be here with his son now," his family said in a statement.

"The shock, horror and grief of hearing that our son had been killed will stay with us for the rest of our lives. The pain we feel in our hearts is still completely unbearable. Life will never be the same for us."

'He was our hero'

Meanwhile Mr Rawson's family paid tribute to their "much loved son, brother and uncle".

"Although it breaks our hearts, we are so proud of Gavin and what he did that day," they said.

"He did what he always did and went to help someone in need, despite the danger to himself.

"He was our hero and we will always remember him that way.

"We just wish we could hold him, hug him and tell him he is our hero. It is completely devastating to our entire family that we will never be able to do this."

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