Evidence of Mick Czaja

The morning began at 10.15 am without the jury present so that time could be given to political argument on whether Russell Harris' evidence was admissible. The problem had arisen because during the protracted investigation and decision to prosecute, Mr Harris (the excavator driver) had died from cancer. It was argued by the defence that as Mr Harris' evidence could not be tested by cross-examination in court that it should not be allowed.

 

The main argument concerned a conversation between Harris and Roger Grant, which Harris had mentioned during his evidence to the police. In it he states that half an hour or so before work started on the morning of April 24 th Roger Grant had asked whether or not they should change the grab for the hook on the excavator. To which Harris had responded, “ Have you had permission from James?”(James Martell – the manager). Grant apparently replied, “No.” Whereupon Harris said, “You can't change the grab without permission or you'll get a right rollicking.” He continued that he believed Roger Grant had indicated that he couldn't contact James Martell. Nothing more was said after that. The argument was that this was hearsay evidence and therefore not admissible.

 

P – You have been at Euromin since 1989 and have undertaken all sorts of jobs?

MC – Correct.

P – For how long have you worked in the weighbridge?

MC – 5 years.

P – You answer the phone, make phone calls, negotiate prices, deal with distribution etc.?

MC- Yes.

P – You also drive the forklift truck?

MC – In an emergency, yes.

P – Do you communicate with Martell?

MC – With regard to running of the yard, what is going out of the yard, reading the post and so on, yes.

P – It's two way information?

MC – Yes.

P – Do you receive instructions from Martell?

MC – Sometimes.

P – For you or for others?

MC – Both.

P – You pass on queries from the men to Martell?

MC – Correct.

P – On a typical day you would speak to Martell less than once?

MC – Yes.

P – How often would Martell be on the premises?

MC – Perhaps 2 days per week.

P – so he's not in every day?

MC – No, some days he's in for a few hours and some days not at all.

P – Does Euromin use its own lorries?

MC - Most of the lorries are owned by owner drivers but some are hired by Euromin.

P – Do the lorries collect every day or do you have room to store materials?

MC – There is enough room to store the stuff on the quay.

P – Who is mainly responsible for allocating jobs?

MC – The normal men. Martell phones Grant normally as to what men are wanted where.

P – Would you get advance notice of a ship and its cargo?

MC – Yes.

P – Would you discuss in advance how many workers were required?

MC – I don't know. That passed by me.

P – Do you remember any discussions about the grab and the hook?

MC – Yes messages went back and forth.

P – Did these involve Martell.

MC – Possibly Martell via Grant.

P – Mr Grant is in every day?

MC – Yes.

P – Would Mr Grant phone you?

MC – No we work in the same yard.

P - On the morning of the 24 th do you remember any phone message?

MC -No.

P – On the morning of the 24 th you were in the weighbridge?

MC – Yes, I met Simon and sent him to Roger Grant. I went to drive the forklift.

P – Was this a dire emergency?

MC – We needed a forklift driver.

P – You knew that the day before?

MC – Yes.

P – Who normally drove it?

MC – It depended who was there.

P – The forklift was used on bags?

MC – Yes.

P – You knew there was a substantial number of bags coming?

MC – Yes.

P – You'd pick up bags from the quay?

MC – Yes.

P – Had you taken any bags away before 10.15?

MC – Yes, but not many.

P – What was the first sign to you that something was wrong?

MC – People had stopped working and were rushing on to the ship.

 

D – How many years experience have you had at Euromin?

MC – 11 years.

D – Were you happy working there?

MC – Very.

D – Was Euromin safety conscious?

MC – As far as I know.

D – How often would you work on the forklift?

MC – Not often.

D - Are you certificated to drive the forklift?

MC – Yes.

D – Have you been on a number of courses, site safety awareness in 1996 etc?

MC – Correct.

D – Have you been on any courses more recently?

MC – I've done a course in first aid.

D – Any other courses?

MC – How to operate the bobcat.

D – Martell joined Euromin in 1994?

MC – Correct.

D – Harris and Grant were already there?

MC – Yes.

D – The Liebherr excavator was already there?

MC – Yes.

D – It was used with chains wrapped around and the grab in place?

MC – Yes.

D – Were you conscious of the system being changed in February 1998?

MC – I wasn't involved in the yard operations.

D – You took cargo to the shed?

MC – Yes.

D – There was a stock of stones of varying sizes?

MC – Yes.

D – So the cargo becomes stock?

MC – Yes.

D – You knew you needed to get the cargo unloaded before the ship grounded?

MC – No.

D – You knew unloading continued after the death?

MC - Yes. I left at 5pm.

D – Which person in the gang did what job was decided on by Grant after consultation with Martell?

MC – Yes.

D – There was a nucleus of Euromin staff and agency staff were taken on as and when needed?

MC – Yes.

D – Euromin staff could do several functions?

MC – Yes.

D – Was this normal in dock work?

MC – Yes.

D – Was the 24 th April a routine day until the accident?

MC – Yes.

D – How well did you know Harris?

MC – Very well.

D – Was he very competent and experienced?

MC – Yes.

D – Did he get on well with Grant?

MC – Yes, we all three started within a year of each other.

D – You had no reservations on Harris' abilities?

MC – No.

D – Was he a loose cannon liable to do things without permission?

MC – No.

 

J – Who would be on the weighbridge if you were off?

MC – Ryan Stapley came in at 9 am.

J – You didn't go in the yard often?

MC – No.

J – The number of workers needed was decided the previous day?

MC – Yes.