A German civil engineering firm has been fined €300,000 plus costs, after pleading guilty to two breaches of health and safety legislation, in relation to the death of a German man who was working on the Corrib Gas tunnel in Co Mayo in 2013.
Lars Wagner died following a workplace accident in late 2013.
He had been working on a tunnel boring machine (TBM) that was being used to construct an underground channel to bring gas from the Corrib field to the onshore processing terminal.
The 4.2km long tunnel was the final element in a long running effort by Shell E&P Ireland to bring gas to the Bellanaboy terminal.
Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court heard Mr Wagner suffered devastating head injuries and died instantly, when a connection joint on a pipe failed and struck him on the morning of 8 September 2013
This morning, representatives for Wayss and Freytag Ingerieurbaun AG, pleaded guilty to two breaches of Safety, Health and Welfare at Work legislation.
The first charge relates to maintenance being carried out while the boring machine was still operating. The second charge is connected to breaches of statutory obligations regarding the safety of workers.
Mr Wagner, a mechanical engineer, was an employee of Herrenknecht AG, the company that had made the tunnel boring machine.
It had been purchased in a joint venture by Wayss and Freytag along with BAM Civil Limited, who were contracted to build the tunnel under Sruwaddacon Bay in north Mayo.
Mr Wagner was in Ireland to deal with an issue which had been identified with hydraulics on the equipment.
On the morning of the incident, he was working in the gear chamber of the TBM, after an oil spill was detected.
Health and Safety Authority Inspector, Greg Murphy, told the court that Mr Wagner had been working in the chamber as the boring machine advanced, when a connection joint on a high pressure pipeline failed. It appears that the engineer was working beside the joint at the time and that he sustained fatal head injuries following a pressure surge on the line.
Mr Murphy said the surge appeared to have been caused by a blockage on a flushing valve but he said the precise reason for the incident had not been established.
The Court heard that specific guidelines for the construction project stipulated that maintenance work should not be carried out when the tunnel boring machine was operating and that this was in line with safety in the workplace legislation.
Brendan Grehan SC for the State told Judge Rory McCabe that Wayss and Freytag had failed to ensure that the boring machine was stopped when Mr Wagner was carrying out the work on the morning in question.
Defence Counsel Remy Farrell pointed out that the boring machine had been stopped for scheduled periods over the previous fortnight when maintenance work was undertaken. There was some discussion regarding the nature of the work being carried out at the time of the incident but Judge Rory McCabe said the accident happened because the defendants had failed in their duties.
He said the machine should have been stopped when Mr Wagner was working and he said the death could have been avoided if this had happened.
Judge McCabe said there had been a communications failure. Nobody had told the machine operator that Mr Wagner was in the gear chamber.
He imposed a fine of €200,000 in respect of the first charge and one of €100,000 in respect of the other. Costs of €22,636 were also awarded against Wayss and Freytag.
Mr Wagner's parents and his sister were in court for today's proceedings, having travelled from the Black Forest region of Germany this morning. They made no comment after the sentence was delivered.