Dangerous hole left Worthing pensioner housebound

Hole outside Patricia Smith's house
Hole outside Patricia Smith's house

A PENSIONER was left housebound after Southern Water dug and left a dangerous hole right outside her front door.

Patricia Smith, 83, lives with her 17-year-old dog in Warwick Place, Worthing, and all afternoon on Thursday (May 10) could not leave her house to walk it without help because the hole the workmen had dug was left uncovered.

The work was carried out at lunchtime by Southern Water as part of its metering programme, and all the holes outside other people’s houses were covered or fenced off. But when the Herald visited Mrs Smith’s home at around 4.30pm, there was no cover over the hole and no safety measures put in place.

Mrs Smith’s son Mark, 51, said: “Two plumbers struggled to get over it so how was an 83-year-old lady going to get over it, because there was no way of going round it? If you’re away from a hole that big for five minutes you have to have some kind of view that the person who lives in the house might want to go out.

“If you dig a hole, you either fill it back in or you cover it up. Can that be any more unprofessional and irresponsible?”

Two plumbers, from the firm XBG, were working on Mrs Smith’s central heating at the time, and said they believed the hole was dug at lunchtime and said they had to carry Mrs Smith out of her house so she could take her dog out.

The pensioner has problems with her memory, due to her age, and has had a hip operation in the past, and Mark said if she fell down the hole “there’s a good chance that she would never come out of hospital”.

He added: “This is negligence beyond negligence. What would have happened if I had not turned up, if no-one had been there and my mum had gone down the hole? How would they have reacted then?

“If that was in London there would have been half a dozen people down that hole who would have gone to hospital, and who would have claimed.”

Southern Water said the area outside Mrs Smith’s house was made safe the same day, and the person responsible will be disciplined.

A spokesman for Southern Water said: “We are contacting Mrs Smith and her family to apologise for the inconvenience and concern caused by this issue, as well as thank them for highlighting it.This is the first time an incident of this nature has been reported to us.

“We immediately launched an investigation to establish the reasons why the area was not secured as it should have been, and this has found that the correct procedures were not followed by one of our installation teams, who will now be subject to disciplinary procedures.”