TRIBUTES have been paid to a Water Authority workman who was killed when a wall collapsed on him.
Lawrence Gell, known by all his friends and workmates at Lude, was excavating to replace a water pipe behind Marine Parade in Peel when the tragedy occurred on Monday.
Water and Sewerage Authority chief executive Peter Winstanley said it had probably been ‘the darkest day in the authority’s long history’.
He said three other staff who had been working at the site had been left traumatised by the tragedy and had been offered counselling.
Mr Gell, a 52-year-old father-of-two, had worked for the Water Authority for 13 years and was a well-liked and hard-working member of the closely knit water networks and reservoir maintenance team.
Long-time friend Dave ‘Barney’ Kelly, speaking on behalf of a number of friends, said: ‘Lude was one of Peel’s true characters and his tragic death will be felt deeply throughout by a wide cross-section of the town who could truly call him a friend.
‘Lude’s first sporting love was his angling but he was also an avid football player and he plied his trade at Michael United for nearly 20 years with many of the friends with whom he grew up.
‘As part of a group of close knit friends, many of us have grown up with Lude and have shared together a number of life’s experiences from the early days at Peel Clothworkers to our recent middle-aged holidays abroad. To not have him in our lives any more has created a huge void for us all.
‘Lude has touched all our lives in different ways and those of us who were fortunate enough to know him well, will be recounting the many funny stories with which we can comfort ourselves with at this extremely sad time.
‘Deepest sympathy, of course, goes to his family but ultimately, Lude’s biggest accolade was that he was a great father and it is for both Ciaran and Harry that our thoughts and prayers are extended.’
Garry Reid, a fellow member of Peel Angling Club, said the club was still trying to come to terms with the sad loss of one of its longest-serving and most popular members.
He said: ‘He was one of the founder members of the club when it was reformed in 1981 and has fished over 900 club competitions, winning 36 major awards including the club championship in its inaugural year.
‘He claimed the pairs championship with his partner, Micky Christian, eight times and was a valuable member of the successful inter-club team of the late eighties
‘He really excelled when the going got tough and the fish became scarce, when his laid back character and unbelievable patience kicked in. These attributes helped him in the Winter Cup, his favourite competition of all, a cup he won on five occasions.
‘Lude always found time for his two boys, Ciaran and Harry, and they have both inherited his love of fishing. He will be sadly missed by the entire club and his many other friends. Our thoughts are now with Ciaran, Harry and all the family.’
Water Authority chairman John Houghton MHK said: ‘Everyone in the Authority is deeply shocked and saddened by this tragic accident.’
Authority chief executive Mr Winstanley added: ‘Lawrence will be sadly missed by all his colleagues on what has been probably the darkest day in the authority’s long history.’
He said the authority was working fully with the Health and Safety Inspectorate in its investigation into the accident.
Mr Gell was one of a team of four who had been working on what should have been a routine job to replace a half-inch diameter lead pipeline. He said a ‘very shallow’ excavation had been dug by hand.
The wall that collapsed was about 4ft high and constructed from red Manx sandstone.
Divorcee Mr Gell, the son of the late Angus and Marion, leaves his two children Ciaran and Harry, his sister Allison and dear friend Lisa. He was uncle to Helen, Kerry, Kristian and Robert.
Funeral arrangements will be announced later. Donations can be made in lieu of flowers to the RNLI Peel branch.