Launceston coroner gives 'closure' to father five years after son's tragic death at construction site

Leigh Reaney.
Leigh Reaney.

More than five years after a tragic workplace incident claimed his son’s life, Tasmania Police Sergeant Ian Reaney has been given "closure". 

The devastated father sat in the Launceston Magistrates Court on Tuesday to hear the findings of an inquest into the 2012 death of his son, Leigh Reaney. 

The 20-year-old Launceston man fell nearly five metres from a roof at a work site in Devonport and onto a concrete slab, suffering severe head injuries.

He later died in hospital.

Leaving court on Tuesday afternoon with his brother, Mr Reaney said he wanted people to continue to remember his son for what he was – a bit of a rascal that lived life to the fullest.

At the time of his tragic death, Leigh was working for Sherwood Enterprises as a labourer.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure Leigh’s safety and was fined $55,000 in September 2014.

Ian Reaney outside the Launceston Magistrates Court on Tuesday. Picture: Neil Richardson

Ian Reaney outside the Launceston Magistrates Court on Tuesday. Picture: Neil Richardson

Construction company Fairbrother had subcontracted Sherwood Enterprises and was also charged with failing to ensure a person at work is safe from injury and risk to health.

The charges were dismissed.

An inquest into the incident was held in 2016 and findings had been expected by the end of that year.

But it was not until this week that Magistrate Simon Brown shared those findings.

He found that although Leigh failed to attach a safety line to his harness at the time of his death, his employer “should have been mindful of the risk, even the likelihood, of such a lapse when they directed how their employees were to do their jobs”. 

“In all this it should not be forgotten that the primary responsibility of the deceased’s safety on the site rested with his employer,” he said.


Mr Brown made no recommendations. 

Preparing for a long road ahead as he attempts to “move on” from the heartache, Mr Reaney said he hoped “no other family goes through the absolute hell” he had been through.

“Relieved is the wrong word, but obviously it’s been a long process and I suppose this is some closure,” he said.

“My main aim was to make sure a lot of blame wasn’t put on Leigh through this process … Leigh was only doing his job.”

After Leigh’s death, new workplace health and safety legislation came into effect, but his father said it was “too little, too late”.

“I just hope the new act makes a difference for other families.”


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