A RESTAURATEUR hospitalised after an electric shock at his Walter Road business says the incident has ruined his life and should never have happened.
Ibiza N2 owner Ahmed El Rakaawi Tolba says for five months he repeatedly warned his property manager via texts, emails and phone calls about a burning smell and smoke coming from a faulty switchboard in the restaurant’s storeroom, but it was never fixed.
During a busy trading night on April 7 last year, the switchboard arced up again and Mr El Rawaaki Tolba ran to switch it off, fearing flames he could see would spread.
He suffered an electric shock, collapsed, and was taken by ambulance to RPH where he was diagnosed with electrocution.
Lawyers for building owner Keltwood Pty Ltd said it was Mr El Rakaawi Tolba’s responsibility to “repair and maintain the property” including the electrics, but an electrical contractor had been “promptly” engaged to investigate his complaints.
Following that February 2 visit from the contractor, Mr El Rakaawi Tolba repeatedly asked for updates, believing he needed the owner’s permission before commissioning any repairs or replacements himself.
He had previously asked the WA Small Business Development Corporation to mediate, but the property managers Raine & Horne Wembley declined, sending instead an update on February 19 that “a report on the condition is being compiled and once received this will be discussed with the building owners”.
But by April Mr El Rekaawi Tolba still hadn’t got an update; he says the injuries he received in the electrocution still affect him, and the near-death experience has affected his mental health.
He had hoped to reopen the restaurant, but there were more delays getting the switchboard fixed.
Mr El Rakaawi Tolba says his experience appeared to have exposed a gap in WA’s electrical safety regulations.
“Western Power didn’t seem [to have] any procedure for near misses,” he said.
“The story would have been different if there was a fatality.”
The building owner was given an order by a state electrical inspector to replace and relocate the switchboard by April 29, but an extension was granted and the work was completed four months later.
But Mr El Rakaawi Tolba says by then the vacant shop had been targeted by vandals and was unfit to reopen.
Without electricity for the alarm, thieves even stole a dormant security camera.
“I would not serve food in there,” Mr El Rakaawi Tolba says of the state of the place.
He refused to pay rent, and was locked out of the property for non-payment in October.
Apart from the restaurant Mr El Rakaawi Tolba owns the Easy Dentures clinic in Mount Hawthorn, but he says his damaged hand is no longer up to the fine detailed work required to craft dentures.
He is pursuing compensation, a figure his insurer’s forensic accountant puts at $365,000 and growing for each month of lost business.
But it’s been a drawn-out process and Mr El Rakaawi Tolba is already racking up legal fees navigating the insurance process and fears it’ll only get worse if it ends up in court.
In December Ibiza N2’s shop manager Nadja Flaming started a crowdfunding campaign to help with the mounting bills but Mr El Rakaawi Tolba played it down because of the bushfire crisis in the eastern states.
“I couldn’t ask people for money, with the fires,” he said.
Raine & Horne Wembley director Terry Menage says the company disagrees with Mr El Rakaawi Tolba’s version of events and will be jointly defending his claim with the owner, but can’t comment further while the matter’s pending.
by DAVID BELL