A 19-year-old crane dogman has been killed on a construction site in the fire-ravaged town of Yarloop in what workmates believe was a freak accident.
Family and friends of Mitchel Birkin yesterday paid tribute to him as a loving and hard-working young man as authorities began an inquiry into how a prefabricated wall panel collapsed on him on Monday.
WorkSafe is investigating claims a strong gust of wind blew the wall panel over as it was being secured.
Mr Birkin was part of a crane crew and held a dogging high-risk work licence. His job was to choose and inspect lifting gear and guide crane drivers as they moved loads.
Colleagues said he had helped direct the panel into place and was believed to be on the phone when the panel fell.
Mr Birkin’s father, Rod, described him as a great son, child and man, who had never caused his parents any heartache.
“He had a loving, gentle nature and loved his family immensely,” Mr Birkin said.
“We will always be proud of our son.”
Halifax Crane, the company that employed the teenager and his father, and site builder Gran Designs WA offered their condolences.
“He was a very loyal and hard-working young man and he will be sadly missed,” Halifax Crane said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with his family and all staff members during this tragic time.”
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union State secretary Mick Buchan said the death of a second teenage construction worker this year was unacceptable. “There has been a serious or fatal accident every 10 weeks on average in the past 12 months,” he said.
WorkSafe and police are investigating the teenager’s death for the WA coroner.