A GRANDFATHER has spoken of the terrifying moment two glass panels plummeted to the ground just inches from where he was standing at Inverness Retail Park, cutting his head open.
Gary Mitchell (57), from Ardersier, is also angry at the wall of silence which has been thrown up by the owners of the shopping centre, British Land, since the incident on Tuesday.
It has emerged this is the third time canopy glass has fallen down at the retail park. The Courier reported in June that a panel had fallen down and it is understood a pane fell in the early hours of Sunday, just two days before Mr Mitchell was hurt.
Speaking exclusively to the Courier, Mr Mitchell said he was taken to Raigmore Hospital with a severely gashed head after two giant sheets of glass crashed to the pavement and shattered in his face.
Friend Aileen McCallum from Aviemore, who he had been chatting to at the time, drove herself to hospital for checks.
He said: "I’m a bit sore, but OK. I’d been doing a bit of shopping and was talking to a friend outside the New Look store when there was an explosion and I was on the ground and there was blood.
"I was hit by the shattering glass. It was all over in a split second – there was a bang and the next thing I knew I was on the ground."
Mr Mitchell suffered seven lacerations to the top of his head and cuts to his forehead and the bridge of his nose.
The retail park has been sealed off to the public since Tuesday although the Vue cinema, Burger King, Tesco and Pizza Hut remain open.
And as businesses count the cost of lost trade in the run-up to Christmas, site owners British Land have refused to answer a series of questions surrounding the accidents and what safety checks have been carried out.
Mr Mitchell said he was disturbed to learn it was not the first time glass had fallen from a canopy at the retail park.
"There was one in June and on the Saturday night/Sunday morning and the one on Tuesday," he said. "Did they check things after the first incidents? Should it have been closed?
"I’m a bit angry because I was with my daughter and grandson shortly before it happened. If that had been a child or a baby in a pram, I’d say they would definitely have been killed. Adults have got tougher skulls."
He added he was also unsettled to discover someone on social media had reported he had died.
Inverness South councillor Duncan MacPherson said: "I’m really disappointed. Is this lightning striking three times?
"There have been failures on the part of the management of British Land for this to have happened.
"There have been failures in not highlighting this to the public. It’s a public heath and safety issue."
Retailers will have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds of trade as a result of the entire area being cordoned off – with 26 shops and restaurants affected. The cordon stretches from the River Island store all the way to Homebase.
In a statement, British Land said: "We’re investigating the cause of the incident.
"The ambulance service were in attendance and we’re assisting them with their enquiries.
"The centre is temporarily closed while we evaluate the cause of the incident. The safety of our customers and staff is our highest priority."
Eyewitness Megan Hart (22), from Newtonmore, had a narrow escape as she had just walked out of New Look when the glass fell.
"I heard a massive noise and tensed up. There was glass in my hair and when I turned around there was a man on the ground with blood coming out of his head.
"One of the workers said it had happened two days ago with another panel of glass. Why didn’t they check it?"
No-one was thought to have been injured in Sunday’s incident.
A team of scaffolders were at the retail park on Thursday and signs were put up informing customers and staff: "Centre closed due to unforeseen circumstances".
A spokeswoman for Highland Council said: "Our environmental health officers have visited the retail park as part of an investigation into the incident.
"Their initial focus was to ensure that there was no remaining health and safety risk from the remaining glass panels.
"Our officers will continue to liaise closely with the retail park operator while investigations continue."
No comment: The questions British Land refuse to answer
- How long will the retail park remain sealed off?
- What reassurance can you offer the public about the general safety of the site?
- What is your message to the casualty? Have you contacted them? Have you apologised to them? Will any compensation be offered to them?
- What compensation arrangements are there in place for traders?
- Do you know the extent of financial losses so far, as a result of the incident?
- Can you confirm two similar incidents involving glass panes falling down at the retail park have happened over the past few months - including one on Sunday at the same spot?