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Gym guilty after woman's horror lift death

PUBLISHED: 09:11 24 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:39 07 September 2010

Katarzyna Woja

Katarzyna Woja

A TOP gym chain has pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws after a Highgate banker was horrifically crushed to death in a lift shaft. Polish-born Katarzyna Woja, 32, was killed as she exited a lift at Holmes Place in Broadgate i

Susanna Wilkey

A TOP gym chain has pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws after a Highgate banker was horrifically crushed to death in a lift shaft.

Polish-born Katarzyna Woja, 32, was killed as she exited a lift at Holmes Place in Broadgate in March 2003, Southwark Crown Court heard.

The Invesco fund manager, pictured, was going to a lunchtime class and was the last of seven people leaving the lift.

But as she approached the doors, the lift plunged downwards. She became trapped between the outer walls of the lift and was dragged down.

She suffered horrific injuries and died at the scene.

Holmes Place Ltd faces a six-figure fine after admitting three health and safety breaches between November 1999 and March 2003.

After the hearing, Ms Woja's husband Nebojsa Dorontic said he was disappointed it had taken seven years for someone to admit responsibility for his wife's death.

He said: "While relieved that I can now see light at the end of what has been a very dark tunnel, I remain frustrated and confused about how it has taken this long for someone to admit responsibility for my wife's death.

"I am pleased that we now have some form of justice. But it is also clear that there is no fine heavy enough to compensate for the loss of my wife and the opportunity to start a family with her."

The couple were married for 10 years and had planned to start a family. Ms Woja, who earned £100,000 a year, was described by colleagues as exceptionally gifted.

Holmes Place, which was taken over by Virgin Active in 2006, admitted failing to discharge their duty under the Health and Safety Act by not ensuring the welfare of employees and failing to protect the public's safety.

It also admitted failing to ensure the lift was in proper working order.

The lift took members from street level into the £118-a-month club and was unsafe for a period of three years, the court heard.

Untrained employees were allowed to operate the machinery and repeated breakdowns were not reported.

The firm also admitted failing to maintain the faulty lift and failing to take adequate remedial action in response to inspectors' reports.

German lift company ThyssenKrupp Elevator UK denied two charges of failing to discharge their duty under the Health and Safety Act between January 1996 and March 2003. It also denied two counts of breaching health and safety regulations.

The lift company will face trial in March next year.

Holmes Place Ltd will learn the amount of its fine once the trial has ended.

Mr Dorontic is also taking civil action.


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