The Inquest into the death of Edward Slaney was stopped by the Coroner after hearing evidence that the design of a skyscraper approved by Leeds City Council may have been a crucial factor in the death. Mr Slaney was a pedestrian who was crushed when a lorry was blown off all four wheels in an area which had become notorious for becoming a wind tunnel near Yorkshire’s tallest building, Bridgewater Palace, in Leeds. A second pedestrian was also seriously injured in the incident. Evidence was heard stating that the lorry appeared to “float through the air like a hot air balloon” before landing on its side crushing Mr Slaney on 10 March 2011. After the building was erected, the street was known to be subject to particularly high wind speeds with a number of previous incidents caused by high winds, including one where a policeman was blown off his bike. The Inquest heard that Leeds City Council received a number of complaints about a “wind tunnel effect” after the building’s completion in 2007. The Coroner, Melanie Williamson, stated “I am concerned having heard all the evidence there may be an offence of corporate manslaughter by one or more of the organisations”. The Inquest was adjourned and the case passed to the CPS.
The building had been approved by Leeds City Council and it is unclear whether charges were contemplated against the Planning or Highways departments. Other potential defendants may be the designers of the building, Bridgewater Palace Limited. A wind assessment was commissioned during the planning stages in 2001 following which the building plot was moved two metres. However, a further wind assessment was not commissioned until 2008 which was after the building had been completed. A spokesman for Leeds City Council expressed disappointment at the Coroner’s decision in light of the outcome of the original Police investigation which found that the Council had worked in a proactive manner, including the erection of safety barriers for pedestrians in January 2009.