News Walthamstow

Homeless man who beat cancer crushed to death by tree in Walthamstow

Lukasz Costazza died aged 30 after beating cancer ‘despite very little chance of survival’ in his teens, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

The Low Hall Nature Reserve (credit: Google Streetview)

Eight years ago, a homeless man who survived cancer in his teens died in a tragedy at a Walthamstow nature reserve. After a series of delays, a jury inquest into his death finally began this week.

Lukasz Costazza, a 30-year-old Polish national, died on the evening of 9th June in 2015, crushed by a falling willow tree in Low Hall Nature Reserve, a plot of woodland owned and maintained by Waltham Forest Council.

Following his death, the Metropolitan Police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated whether the council or its tree maintenance contractor, Gristwood and Toms, should face a corporate manslaughter charge.

The investigation revealed that many trees, including the one that fell on Lukasz’s head, had been damaged by fires in the past and were not safe. However, ultimately it was decided that there was not enough evidence to pursue criminal charges.

Lukasz’s inquest finally began on 22nd May and is scheduled to last for an entire week. Senior coroner for East London Graeme Irvine read out a statement from his family, which described him as “hard-working, family-oriented and very helpful”.

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They added: “When he was 16, he won a battle with cancer despite having very little chance of survival. He really appreciated the second chance in life.

“He was never looking for any kind of conflict with anyone. He was resourceful so we never worried about him. He lived his own life.”

On the day he died, Lukasz had been drinking with four other men in the woodland and was asleep or unconscious when the five-metre long tree fell.

One of the men, Kasper Zbieg, told police they regularly met there to drink because its secluded nature meant they would not “get their drink taken away from them”.

In a statement read out by the coroner, Kasper said he arrived at about 8pm to find three men sitting near an “old rotting dead tree that had the top cut from it” and Lukasz lying in the foetal position in a bush nearby.

After 20-30 minutes Kasper, who had only drunk “half a beer”, heard a noise and saw that the dead tree had fallen on Lukasz’s head and neck.

The three shocked men, one of whom was crying, called the emergency services. A fast-responding paramedic arrived by motorbike, followed by a helicopter medical team, but Lukasz died at the scene.

A post-mortem examination found that Lukasz died of severe head injuries and had a “very high” alcohol level in his blood – four and a half times the legal limit for driving.

Detective inspector Martin Head from the Metropolitan Police’s specialist crime command told the court that although the death was unusual it was deemed “non-suspicious”.

The inquest continues.

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