Inquest verdict: Store where four-year-old Crawley boy was crushed by mirror criticised for failing to prevent the tragedy

Four year old Austen Harrison who died at Bicester Village retail outlet in June 2013 ENGSUS00120130717125114
Four year old Austen Harrison who died at Bicester Village retail outlet in June 2013 ENGSUS00120130717125114

An upmarket outlet store where a four-year-old Crawley boy was crushed by a mirror has been criticised for failing to prevent the tragedy.

Austen Harrison was waiting for his father Simon to try on suits when the heavy mirror fell on him in the fitting room.

Today (Wednesday March 25 2015) an inquest jury returned a narrative verdict following the three day inquest.

The jury foreman said: “Austen died at approximately 05.45am on June 8, 2013, at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

“His death was a result of an incident with a mirror which fell on him at the Hugo Boss store in Bicester Village on June 4.

“The mirror came to fall on Austen after he moved the wings, causing the unfixed mirror to become unstable. The jury believes the mirror should have been fixed to the wall and the wall should have been reinforced and we do not believe it was.

“We are not able to say who moved it to the fitting room. We believe a risk assessment should have been completed post-work to ensure the mirror was secured to the wall.

“We believe there were health and safety systems in place but we are not confident they would have avoided any challenges posed by the mirror.

“In any case, these systems seem to not have been followed.”

Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter said he would be writing to the chief executive of the Hugo Boss organisation about the inquest findings.

“Lessons have been learned and issues have been addressed - we have heard that in July last year a health and safety manager was appointed.

“A number of steps have been taken since the incident, including visits and inspections by the health and safety manager and a mirror installation review process has been set up.

“I need to highlight the concerns in this case. As far as the store manager is concerned, he received basic induction level training and no management training in relation to health and safety.

“The area manager has no health and safety training prior to the incident and no training in management of health and safety. Neither appeared to know of the existence of monthly health and safety checklists which the store manager should have completed.

“Systems were in place but they weren’t followed. In general, the evidence indicates a lack of understanding about the roles and responsibilities and that seems to be acknowledged by Hugo Boss.

“Further training in management of health and safety and roles and responsibilities, audits by the health and safety manager at each store - I think it is important that these are done by a health and safety professional separate from the retail team.

“If a professional had carried out an inspection before, it is likely this mirror would have been reported unsafe.

“It is surprising to me that the mirror stood in that position for at least six months with staff and customers regularly moving the mirror’s wings. Sadly this incident was an accident waiting to happen and it is all the more tragic that it was young Austen who with his parents is completely blameless and were not expecting such a heavy mirror to be freestanding and unsupported in any way.”

A spokesman for Hugo Boss said after the inquest: “On 4 June 2013, a tragic incident took place in the Hugo Boss Bicester Village store, which led to the death of a four-year-old boy.

“The global Hugo Boss team has expressed its heartfelt condolences to the family and our thoughts are of course still with them. Our team remains extremely saddened by the incident. Given the on-going investigations, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”