Family of tragic Queensferry Crossing worker '˜will cross bridge first'

The family of a man who died while working on the new Queensferry Crossing will be one of the first to walk across it after being initially snubbed by bridge bosses.

Friday, 18th August 2017, 11:40 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 11:54 am
The family of Wullie McColm will be one of the first to cross the Queensferry Crossing bridge. Picture; Greg Macvean

Wullie McColm, 51, gave “his life to the bridge” but tragically died after having a heart attack while working on the structure on 29 August 2012.

His co-workers even put up a plaque up at the crossing to commemorate the popular dad with the words “Wullie’s Base”.

The bridge is finally set to open at the end of the month before 50.000 people who won passes in an online ballot will be able to walk across it.

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Members of the public will get to walk over the Queensferry Crossing.

But Wullie’s family initially missed out on the once in a lifetime opportunity to walk the 1.7 miles across the Firth of Forth on September 2 and September 3.

His widow Catherine, 50, son Jake, 14, and stepdaughter Gemma Moore, 29, entered the ballot but were told back in July they had been unsuccessful.

Gemma then tried to contact bosses at the Queensferry Crossing Experience to explain the situation but never received a reply.

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Talks underway to install memorial to Queensferry Crossing workers
Members of the public will get to walk over the Queensferry Crossing.

But bridge bosses have now performed a U-turn to ensure that Wullie’s relatives will be one of the first families to make the historic crossing in two weeks time.

Catherine said: “We were devastated we never got the opportunity to do the walk -- it’s wrong neither of the families were invited.

“I only found out on Tuesday that a petition had been started for members of the two families to walk over the bridge.

“We could have been invited or given some sort of priority.

“There have been loads of local people who have had to put up with the drama of the bridge being built.

“Maybe they should have had priority, or the family of those people who worked tirelessly to build it.

“I’m glad that we got the ticket but I’m disappointed we had to go this far to get them.”

Catherine and Wullie were just days away from celebrating their wedding anniversary, on September 1, when Wullie died.

With the walk set for September 2, Catherine said it would be very fitting for her family to take part in memory of her late husband.

She said: “Wullie gave his life to the bridge, and we have received no support from anyone since he died because it wasn’t treated as an accident at work.

“Wullie didn’t have life insurance or anything like that. We just muddled through as a family.”

She continued: “We got nothing, we got no compensation. Because it wasn’t treated as an accident at work we weren’t entitled to anything.”

Catherine was preparing to celebrate their six year anniversary when Wullie died.

She said: “I was in the middle of getting my nails done, because me and Wullie were planning to go out for dinner for our anniversary a few days later.

“I got a phone call saying he had had a heart attack at work, and was being rushed to hospital in Livingston.

“I was just completely numb, I wasn’t even thinking, I just started to panic about who was going to pick Jake up.”

After a 45-minute drive to the hospital Catherine was too late.

“I don’t know why but I just knew he was already dead when I was driving. It was just my gut instinct I was too late - I can’t even explain why, I just knew.”

Childminder Catherine said she still finds it hard to cross the Forth Road Bridge.

She added: “Our marriage was just fantastic, Wullie was my best friend and we lived for each other and our family.

“We met in a pub about 18 years ago, I worked there and Wullie used to come in after work.”

The new bridge opens to traffic for the first time on 30 August before its official opening ceremony attended by Her Majesty The Queen on 4 September.

Wullie’s family will now be able to make the 1.7 miles crossing, which will take place on September 2 and September 3.

For these two days, the Queensferry Crossing will be closed to road traffic to allow 50,000 people to walk across the bridge in celebration of its opening.

An online ballot was launched in June to select 50,000 to take part.

It attracted applications from more than 226,000 people, and randomly selected participants.

The majority of entrants have Scottish addresses, 97 per cent, with 51 per cent coming from postcodes near the bridge.

About 5,180 people entered have postcodes from elsewhere in the UK and the remaining 437 are from the rest of the world, including the United States, India and one single entrant from Slovakia.

But a petition, created on Change.Org, has been launched a bid to raise awareness of the family’s plight.

Its creators said they wanted to get Wullie’s family, and the family of another worker who died during the construction, to attend the opening.

It also makes reference to John Cousins, 60, was killed in April 2016 after being struck by the boom of a crane he was directing on the north tower deck.

The construction worker from Northumberland suffered severe blood loss and was unable to be resuscitated.

Bridge bosses are understood to be in talks over a memorial plaque to created at the site in his honour.

The petition has been signed by almost 2,500 people.

It states: “During the construction of the Queensferry Bridge, two men have died.

“One was a man struck with a crane boom and the other fell ill while working on the bridge.

“I believe it would be more fitting for the families of those men to at least be offered a participatory role in the opening of the new bridge.

“If not, at the very least, an honour should be erected on, near or included on the plaque about the bridge to immortalise them and recognise the fact that because they went into the line of work they did, people on both side of the bridge are able to use it because they contributed to its construction from the water up.

“I believe most would agree that it would be a fitting tribute to their lives and show that the legacy of their lives work in that industry has yielded a construction marvel of epic proportions which will enrich the lives of millions over the life of the Bridge.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We have only very recently been made aware of this case.

“We have been in contact with Mr McColm’s family to discuss their request and offer the opportunity to take part in the Queensferry Crossing’s opening events.”