A food waste recycling company has been found guilty of corporate manslaughter following the deaths of two workers who drowned in a tanker of semi-liquid pig feed.
Dad-to-be Nathan Walker, 19, and his colleague Gavin Rawson, 35, were working at Greenfeeds Ltd when they were overcome by toxic fumes from a tanker.
On the afternoon of 22 December, 2016, Mr Walker had climbed into the tanker to clean it with a power washer so that it could be emptied of pig feed.
However, he got into difficulties and when he shouted for help, Mr Rawson rushed over to help, climbing inside the tanker in an attempt to haul Mr Walker to safety but both men became overcome by the fumes and drowned in the liquid.
Both men were pulled from the tanker after a saw was used to cut holes in the side of it.
The two men, who were yard workers at the firm’s base at Church Farm, on Normanton Lane, Normanton, Leicestershire, were found face down in the liquid inside the tank on the afternoon of 22 December, 2016.
They were pronounced dead at the scene and post-mortem examination concluded they died as a result of drowning in the animal feed.
Now, following a six-week trial at Leicester Crown Court, Greenfeeds has been found guilty of two counts of corporate manslaughter, while its directors, Ian Leivers, 59, and his wife Gillian, 60, of Newark, Nottinghamshire., were also convicted over the deaths alongside employee Stewart Brown, 69.
Ian Leivers was also found guilty of breaching health and safety rules while his wife was convicted of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter.
She was also convicted of health and safety breaches.
Brown, of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, was found guilty of health and safety breaches but was cleared of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter.
Jurors heard Greenfeeds produced biofuel and pig feed from recycled products which were then delivered using road haulage tankers.
The court heard the men had been instructed to clean the tanker by Gillian Leivers and Brown despite no risk assessment being in place.
Police found that staff at the company had previously expressed concerns after dangers of cleaning the tankers without breathing apparatus but they were ignored.
Following the verdicts on Tuesday, DC Kirsty Iqbal, of Leicestershire Police, said: “Both men went to work on the day of 22 December 2016 at Greenfeeds Ltd where they should have been looked after and their safety should have been paramount.
“Instead investigations showed that the system which was used to clean out the tankers at Greenfeeds Ltd was so fundamentally dangerous that fatal consequences were virtually certain.
“Mr Walker and Mr Rawson had their futures taken away from them simply because the
firm did not have the correct safety procedures and equipment in place. Their deaths should never have been allowed to happen.”
Mr Walker’s family said he was expecting his first child with his partner and was a “healthy, young man with his whole life ahead of him”.
They added: "Nathan’s death was cruel and there was no sense in it. The shock, horror and grief of hearing that our son had been killed will stay with us for the rest of our lives.”
Mr Rawson’s family paid tribute to their “hero”, adding: "If only health and safety guidance had been followed, Gavin would still be here.”
The Leivers and Brown were released on bail and ordered to return to court on 16 June for sentencing.