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Husband’s Anger Over Gym Lift Tragedy


The husband of a woman crushed to death by a faulty lift at a central London gym has spoken of his anger and confusion over why it has taken nearly seven-years for the gym’s owners to admit responsibility for his wife’s death.

At Southwark Crown Court today, Holmes Place (now Virgin Active) pleaded guilty and accepted responsibility for the death of 32 year-old City worker Katarzyna Woja from Hornsey, North London, who was killed attempting to climb clear of a lift, as it dropped past the exit level at the then Holmes Place facility on 12th March 2003.

Speaking on behalf of Mrs Woja’s husband (Nebojsa Dorontic), Irwin Mitchell lawyer Keith Barrett said, “While relieved that he can now see light at the end of what has been a very dark tunnel, my client remains frustrated and confused about how it has taken this long for someone to admit responsibility for his wife’s death”.

“He is pleased that what remains of his and Katarzyna’s family now have some form of justice, but is also clear that there is no fine heavy enough to compensate for the loss of his wife and the opportunity to start a family with her.”

“This has been a complicated and long-running case. Irwin Mitchell are happy that there has now been an admission of guilt, but remain disappointed that Mr Dorontic has had to wait for almost 7 years for someone to admit responsibility for his wife’s death. A separate civil case remains ongoing and we very much hope that it may come to a conclusion very soon so that the family no longer have to relive this tragedy.”

“What makes this case so tragic is that Katarzyna’s death was wholly avoidable. Holmes Place admitted that if regular safety checks had been carried out and if proper maintenance procedures had been followed this incident would never have happened. This serves to further highlight the importance of having robust health and safety procedures in place and making sure they are adhered to.”

Holmes Place has admitted that despite the lift in which Mrs Woja was killed having dropped repeatedly, including one instance the day before her death, staff at the gym continued to reset it. The management of the gym had been aware of problem with the lifts dating back to 2001.

“If it was a bus or a train that had a history of faults you would not put people in it,” Mr Barrett said, “Yet the management at Holmes Place knew there was a problem and it was not until there was a tragedy that they decided to do anything about it.” 

“The real tragedy is that Katarzyna was a successful, intelligent and much loved woman who was going about her normal daily business when life was ended by an entirely avoidable incident,” Mr Barrett continued.