Hugo Boss blamed for not securing lethal mirror

Austen Harrison
Austen Harrison
  • Austen Harrison died when a mirror in a Hugo Boss store toppled over and crushed him
  • An inquest heard it was an ‘accident waiting to happen’
  • The Bicester Village store has been blamed for not fixing the mirror to the wall

A four-year-old boy who was crushed by a 18 stone mirror died in an ‘accident waiting to happen’, an inquest heard.

Austen Harrison was playing with the freestanding mirror while his dad, Simon, was browsing for a new tie in Hugo Boss at Bicester Village.

The Hugo Boss store at Bicester Village

The Hugo Boss store at Bicester Village

But when Austen moved the wings, the mirror fell on top of him and he died from his head injuries four day later.

Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter, who has written to the chief executive of Hugo Boss, was ‘surprised’ the mirror had remained free-standing for six months before the accident on June 4, 2013.

He said: “Sadly this incident was an accident waiting to happen and it is all the more tragic that it was young Austen who, with his parents, is completely blameless and were not expecting such a heavy mirror to be freestanding and unsupported in any way.

“Systems were in place but they weren’t followed. In general, the evidence indicates a lack of understanding about the roles and responsibilities and that seems to be acknowledged by Hugo Boss.

I heard someone gasp and I looked and saw the mirror had fallen over. I knew Austen was underneath it”

Simon Harrison

“If a professional had carried out an inspection before, it is likely this mirror would have been reported unsafe.”

Oxford Coroner’s Court returned a narrative verdict after the three-day inquest. A jury concluded the mirror should have been fixed to the wall and the wall should have been reinforced.

The jury foreman said Austen’s death was a ‘result of an incident with a mirror’ when it fell after he moved the wings, causing the unfixed mirror to become unstable.

The jury found: “The mirror should have been fixed to the wall and the wall should have been reinforced and we do not believe it was.

The coroner said four-year-old Austen died in an 'accident waitng to happen'

The coroner said four-year-old Austen died in an 'accident waitng to happen'

“We are not able to say who moved it to the fitting room. We believe a risk assessment should have been completed post-work to ensure the mirror was secured to the wall.

“We believe there were health and safety systems in place but we are not confident they would have avoided any challenges posed by the mirror. In any case, these systems seem to not have been followed.”

Austen and his mum Irina went to meet Simon after he finished work and they enjoyed dinner at Carluccio’s.

The family, from Crawley, then popped into Hugo Boss for Simon to try on some suits.

Reading a statement at the inquest, Simon, a mechanical aerospace engineer and consultant, said: “I heard a quick, loud, sudden bang, but no sound of breaking glass.

“I heard someone gasp and I looked and saw the mirror had fallen over. I knew Austen was underneath it as it was not lying flat to the floor.”

Irina said: “Austen was looking at himself in front of the mirror when I heard a crash.

“We ran to the mirror and Austen was underneath it. His head was broken.”

Simon lifted the mirror off his son and carried him to a carpeted area of the store where off-duty junior doctor Christina Davies found Austen’s pulse and kept him stable.

Austen was rushed to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford but died just before 6am on June 8, 2013, from his head injuries.

The Health and Safety Executive found no evidence of wall fixings on the back of the main mirror or the wings.

An investigation found that if the wings were opened outwards - even marginally - it would cause the mirror to rock forward.

Head of shop construction at Hugo Boss, Ben Mareschal, visited the store in September 2012 - a month after it opened - and saw the mirror, which was ordwered from Germany, standing in the wrong part of the shop.

He said: “I clearly remember the three way mirror was in the wrong location, it was not in the fitting area.

“I recall putting my hand on the mirror and I said guys, it can’t be here, it needs to be fitted properly.

“It was not attached to the wall and was masking a gap in the wall fittings. I walked to the fitting room and indicated where it needed to go.

“The three-way mirror was certainly not a freestanding mirror and to leave it standing on the floor would have been inherently dangerous due to its size and weight.

“It needed to be fixed securely to the wall.”

Mr Mareschal, who has since left the company, said Hugo Boss did not cut corners in relation to health and safety but admitted the job was ‘low cost and fast paced’.

Store manager Andrew Morgan said he conducted inspections regularly, but when asked if he documented them, he replied: “No comment.”

A spokesman for Hugo Boss said: “The global team has expressed its heartfelt condolences to the family and our thoughts are of course still with them. Our team remains extremely saddened by the incident.

“Given the on-going investigations, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”