A builder believes he was inches from being “cut to ribbons” when a sheet of glass showered down as he walked towards a Tesco Express for some milk.
Derrick Westlake was standing almost directly underneath a glass canopy at the shopfront on Victoria Street, Redcliffe, when it shattered and crashed onto the pavement just in front of him.
The 52-year-old believes he could have lost his life. The pane which broke in the near miss has not been replaced, but five other canopies remain in a row across the shopfront – and Derrick fears the same thing could happen to them.
Tesco says “a prompt and thorough inspection of the canopies” has found they are safe, but Derrick says he has not been told how the supermarket knows this.
The builder is from Birmingham, but he had been working at the construction site of the Halo office block in Finzels Reach. He visited the nearby Tesco Express at 4.30pm on February 8.
He said: “I’d popped to Tesco to get some milk. The canopy was about three metres up, and it suddenly just crashed down.
“Literally another step forward and it would have hit me. I would have been cut to ribbons. There was a woman standing there who kept saying, ‘You’re very lucky you are.’
“I went into the shop, bought my milk and went into the Premier Inn, where I was staying. It wasn’t until half an hour later that I thought, ‘Hold on a minute, I’ve nearly been killed.’”
Derrick has been angered by what he sees as a lack of details from Tesco and the building maintenance company, Workman, when he has asked about the investigation.
He said: “There would be ructions if that happened on a building site. Tesco say they don’t own the building. There’s no customer care in that, is there? If I’d slipped on a grape in the shop, they would have been running around like headless chickens
“What if I’d been pushing a babby in a pushchair? If that happened at my workplace, someone would be asking questions. Not one person has asked me to make a statement on this.”
Derrick was unimpressed by a suggestion which he claims was made by an employee of Workman.
“Workman said it might have been a seagull dropping a stone on the glass,” Derrick added. “Maybe they didn’t realise I’ve been in the building game all my life.”
Derrick believes it is likely the glass contracted in the cold weather and developed stress fractures before smashing. The temperature in Bristol averaged at 5C on February 8, according to climate-data.org.
The builder was offended when he made a subject access request and obtained Tesco’s emails about his complaint. One of the emails sent between employees of the chain suggested Derrick could be “looking for compensation”.
Derrick said: “I felt like I was being made the villain of the piece. I don’t want compensation. I just want to know what the outcome of the inquiry was, and how they know it’s safe. My concern is the safety of other people.”
He says Bristol City Council helped him obtain CCTV footage of the near miss. You can view it at the top of this page. Derrick can be seen wearing a hi-vis jacket.
A council spokesperson said: “Our Environmental Health team have been made aware of this incident and have worked with the store and parties involved to ensure that the appropriate safety and maintenance measures are in place and regular inspection routines maintained.’’
Tesco believes the canopy broke after something was dropped onto it during cold weather.
A spokesperson for the supermarket said: “We take the safety of our customers and colleagues extremely seriously and immediately reported this incident to the landlord of the Paragon building in which our Express store is located.
“The landlord commissioned a prompt and thorough inspection of the canopies and determined that all the remaining canopies were safe. They have now organised regular ongoing checks on the canopies to ensure their safety and we are reassured by the steps they have taken.”
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Bristol Live has asked Tesco how it knows the same thing could not happen to the remaining canopies.
A Workman spokesperson said: “We would like to reassure everyone who visits the building that the safety and wellbeing of occupiers, staff and the general public is our number one priority.
“We take complaints of this nature very seriously and have already worked together with the [environmental health officer] for a full safety inspection, the investigation of which concluded that the facilities are safe.”