A four-year prison sentence, two of which were suspended, was requested on Wednesday against the architect of the Angers residence, whose balcony collapsed in 2016, killing four students.
A four-year prison sentence, two of which were suspended, was requested on Wednesday against the architect of the Angers residence, whose balcony collapsed in 2016, killing four students. Arrogant, not liking to put “feet in the mud”: the responsibility of Frédéric Rolland, 66, the architect of the Le Surcouf residence in Angers, was deemed overwhelming by the public prosecutor of Angers Eric Bouillard . The latter also requested prison sentences against the four other defendants.
“Construction conductor”, responsible for the smooth running and execution of the work as project manager, Frédéric Rolland was the only one to have an overall view of the site. Far from the responsibilities incumbent on him, the man nevertheless presented himself at the bar “as an artist draftsman concerned with the sole aesthetic concern of the color of the coatings”, willingly giving lessons, summarized Mr. Bouillard in an indictment more than two hours.
Yet it was he who, even if he did not set foot on the site, delegating this task to his father’s collaborators, validated the change in construction method for the balconies, one of the causes of the poor workmanship that caused the drama. In his office reigned “the mess”, everyone “did what he wanted”, generating a “general laxity” on the site, recalled the prosecutor.
“You failed personally”
Antoine, 21, Benjamin, 23, Lou, 18, and Baptiste, 25, lost their lives in the accident, “died in the name of poor workmanship, economy” according to the prosecutor. Fourteen other young people were injured. “I don’t know if you can call them kids, what I know is that in four seconds they turned 30,” Bouillard said of the survivors. “I have never doubted that the fault lies solely with building professionals,” insisted the prosecutor facing the five builders who are appearing for homicide and involuntary injury.
Paying tribute to the “lesson in humanity” given by the victims, he criticized the defendants for having sought to “dilute the responsibilities”, using tricks to postpone the trial. “What they built killed. A balcony does not fall after 18 years, ”he castigated. Three years in prison, including a one-year suspended sentence, were required against Patrick Bonnel, 72, manager of the structural work company. By admitting his “shame” of the work of his teams, he “recognized nothing at all”.
“This work you contributed to it personally, you failed in a personal capacity. You let your employees work without a plan, without a method, without experience,” said the prosecutor. At the time, the company was in difficulty. There is therefore no question of losing a contract with a major client in Angers. Rewinding the facts, Eric Bouillard recalled that even before the start of construction, the builders knew that the deadlines “were too short”.
“These are disproportionate requisitions compared to the fact that we are in the presence of involuntary offenses and of a person who assumes his responsibilities, (…) without any criminal record”, commented Me Thierry Fillion, lawyer for Mr Bonnel. Three years in prison, including an 18-month suspended sentence, were required against the works manager, who considered the balconies to be “warts” when they were one of the two most sensitive points on the site. Eighteen months suspended sentence were required against the site manager, who “agreed to do what should not be done and what he does not know how to do”. A ten-month suspended sentence was also required against André de Douvan, 84, in charge of monitoring the site for the Apave group, who admitted at the bar “that the victims had led him to tell the truth”.
For Me Louis-René Penneau, lawyer for the civil parties, these “requisitions are extremely fair. They are commensurate with the faults that were committed and they are commensurate with the lack of recognition of these faults by the defendants”. “The defendants allowed their incompetence to do their thing, they didn’t even try to be competent,” added the lawyer.
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