Tributes paid to drill worker who died on HS2 site

Tributes have been paid to the drill worker who died on an HS2 site last year.

Charlie Harper died on 28 April 2023, aged 71, a day after being hit by the end of an unsecured pipe. Harper had been undertaking horizontal directional drilling at a Solihull site operated by Balfour Beatty Vinci JV.

A coroner ruled that the death was accidental but issued a warning to drilling bodies and companies that the tail end of coiled pipes should be secured to trailers during dispensing to prevent similar injuries.

Charlie Harper

In a tribute, Harper’s daughter Leah Howe and niece Lynsey Kent said he was a “very large part of the family” and a “larger than life character” whose legacy continues through their business Harper Services, adding that he enjoyed church and music.

“Charlie Harper was 19 years old when he brought his first digger, he had a great deal of work from many clients within the construction industry over the years. In 1985, Charlie went into partnership with his brother Samuel, and together they created Harper Services,” they said.

“Charlie was a very large part of our family: a husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother and uncle. Charlie was a larger than life character enjoying church, music and playing his guitar.

“Charlie also did litter-picking in the community on a Sunday after church and any other charity event he felt compassionate about.

“Many family members had the pleasure of working alongside him and learning from his wide knowledge of the construction and utility industry. Through his family he wants his legacy to carry on.”

Harper Services continues to operate from Northamptonshire, operating an array of drilling rigs, from 25mm to 1 metre-width bores, pulling in pipes for water and ducts for electricity.

Charlie Harper’s brother Samuel Harper continues to work in the business’s maintenance department, while his daughter, Howe, has taken over as onsite construction manager.

“With the skills and knowledge Charlie shared we are able to drill under all assets, including rivers, railways and motorways,” his daughter added.

Harper’s family backed the coroner’s call for firms to secure the end of coil pipes to trailers to prevent future accidents.

“In relation to the Prevention of Future Deaths report, the family do not want anyone else to suffer injury,” they said.

“Therefore, we want the safety alert to be broadcasted across the industry to ensure safety to all others on site.”

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