Woolworths workplace death: Hundreds line the streets to say goodbye to ‘gentle giant’ Basel Brikha

A ‘gentle giant’ who was tragically crushed to death at a Woolworths factory has been farewelled in a moving ceremony in Sydney‘s west, with sobbing women reaching out to touch his coffin as it was carried out of the church. 

Hundreds of mourners poured into Saint Zaia Cathedral, in Middleton Grange, on Thursday morning to say their goodbyes to Basel ‘Baz Brikha – nine days after the accident at the supermarket giant’s distribution centre in nearby Minchinbury. 

Mr Brikha was working in the warehouse when he was struck by falling pallets and suffered critical head injuries. He was rushed to Westmead Hospital, but later died. 

The church was so packed on Thursday that men carried stacks of chairs out a storage area and into the main hall to cater to attendees overflowing into the aisles.

Around a dozen pallbearers carried Mr Brikha’s white casket, adorned with flowers, to the front of the room, where a group of men began the ceremony by singing traditional Assyrian hymns.

Woolworths workplace death: Hundreds line the streets to say goodbye to ‘gentle giant’ Basel Brikha

Hundreds of mourners piled into Saint Zaia Cathedral, in Sydney’s west, on Tuesday to say their goodbyes to Basel ‘Baz Brikha

Basel 'Baz' Brikha, 37 (pictured) was tragically killed in a workplace accident on June 27

Basel ‘Baz’ Brikha, 37 (pictured) was tragically killed in a workplace accident on June 27

Crying women reached out to touch Mr Brikha's coffin as it was slowly walked down the aisle of the church to an awaiting hearse

Crying women reached out to touch Mr Brikha’s coffin as it was slowly walked down the aisle of the church to an awaiting hearse

Doves were released into the sky as women wailed as a cultural public display of grief to show respect to the dead

Doves were released into the sky as women wailed as a cultural public display of grief to show respect to the dead 

Men and women dabbed tears away from their eyes as hundreds swarmed the casket as it was lowered into the back of the hearse

Men and women dabbed tears away from their eyes as hundreds swarmed the casket as it was lowered into the back of the hearse                                      

Mourners are pictured arriving at Saint Zaia Cathedral on Thursday

Mourners are pictured arriving at Saint Zaia Cathedral on Thursday 

Speaking on behalf of the Brikha family, the priest told mourners how the 37-year-old was so popular he was the best man at several friends’ weddings and was later asked to be the godfather to three kids. 

But his benevolence also extended outside his inner circle. 

The warehouse worker generously sponsored a little girl, named Tilly, through the Alannah and Madeline Foundation – a charity dedicated to helping kids who have experienced violence ‘heal and thrive’ – by making regular monetary payments.

‘Basel’s family know him as ”our gentle giant” and his friends know him as the one they could call upon, and he would always say “yes”,’ the priest said.

‘He always had the energy to help anyone in need – family, friends, or total strangers.’

Born in Iraq in the 1980s, Mr Brikha was the youngest of nine children, with four older brothers and four older sisters.

When he was a child, the family moved to Jordan for a year before relocating to New Zealand, where Mr Brikha spent much of his youth.

Many women were seen clutching flowers as they made their way into the church 

Mr Brikha's friends dressed in white walk towards the church ahead of the service

Mr Brikha’s friends dressed in white walk towards the church ahead of the service

Mourners gathered in the car park of the cathedral as they waited for the ceremony to begin

Mourners gathered in the car park of the cathedral as they waited for the ceremony to begin

Many friends and loved ones pulled out their phones to film as Mr Brikha's coffin was placed into the hearse

Many friends and loved ones pulled out their phones to film as Mr Brikha’s coffin was placed into the hearse

The 37-year-old's white casket was decorated with bouquets filled with white, red and blue flowers

The 37-year-old’s white casket was decorated with bouquets filled with white, red and blue flowers

Mostly male mourners gathered for the second part of the ceremony, which took place in nearby Forrest Lawn cemetery

Mostly male mourners gathered for the second part of the ceremony, which took place in nearby Forrest Lawn cemetery

The group chanted as Mr Brikha's casket was lowered into the ground

The group chanted as Mr Brikha’s casket was lowered into the ground 

One man, overwhelmed with grief, lent down over the grave as everyone prepared to leave the cemetery

One man, overwhelmed with grief, lent down over the grave as everyone prepared to leave the cemetery

He moved to Sydney in 2015, where he joined his siblings, before starting work at the Woolworths warehouse three years ago.

Family and friends also heard about Mr Brikha’s love of Spanish football club Real Madrid, his two cats and dog, and his childhood fear of heights. 

The priest said Mr Brikha’s ‘untimely departure’ had devastated his enormous social network.

‘Baz was a remarkable individual who touched the lives of many around him,’ the priest said.

‘His vibrant spirit, compassion and physical life brought joy to those fortunate enough to know him. He possessed a kindness and a smile that could brighten even the darkest of days. 

‘We feel profound pain in our hearts.

‘But we feel solace in coming together as a community.’

As the coffin was slowly carried out of the church, led by chanting men, many older sobbing women leaned out of the pews to brush it with their finger tips.

Outside, white doves were released into the sky as mourners wiped away tears as a group of women wailed – a cultural tradition to let the deceased person know they are loved and missed. 

Flower reefs lent up against the hearse paid tribute to Mr Brikha - who was the youngest of nine children

Flower reefs lent up against the hearse paid tribute to Mr Brikha – who was the youngest of nine children

Two men hugged as emotional scenes unfolded as Mr Brikha was laid to rest

Two men hugged as emotional scenes unfolded as Mr Brikha was laid to rest 

Men dressed in black carried flowers to lay at Mr Brikha's grave

Men dressed in black carried flowers to lay at Mr Brikha’s grave 

Mr Brikha’s coffin was then driven to its final resting place, in nearby Forrest Lawn Cemetery. 

Mostly male relatives followed for second half of the ceremony, where traditional hymns continued to be bellowed as the 37-year-old was lowered into the grave.  

Overcome with emotion, one man dropped to the ground and lent over the burial plot as everyone else was preparing to leave the cemetery. 

The workplace accident on June 27 that claimed Mr Brikha’s life also left two other employees injured who rushed to his aid. 

They have since been released from hospital and the incident is being investigated by SafeWork NSW. 

Mr Brikha’s death has ignited calls from union workers for a suspension in the use of pallet distributors while their safety is investigated and also sparked supply shortages at Woolworths stores across Sydney.

Pallet dispensers are machines designed to automatically load, store, and dispense pallets, which – depending on size – can handle between 20 to 50 pallets at a time.

‘All pallet dispensers Australia wide should be shut down immediately in Woolworths DC [distribution centre] after the death at Minchbury,’ SNDC union members wrote in a post online.

‘The union has to act to protect their members.’

A spokesperson for Primary Connect previously told Daily Mail Australia the company, which is responsible for Woolworths’ supply chain platform, was ‘deeply saddened’ by Mr Brikha’s death.

Emergency services are pictured at the scene last week after Mr Brikha and two colleagues were seriously injured

Emergency services are pictured at the scene last week after Mr Brikha and two colleagues were seriously injured

‘Our thoughts and condolences are with our team member’s friends and family at this difficult time and we are currently supporting the family and our two team members who were also injured in the incident,’ they said.

‘We are cooperating with NSW Police and SafeWork NSW to investigate the incident and we will also be undertaking our own investigation.

‘Out of respect for the team members and their families, we closed our distribution centre for a period of time.’

United Workers Union has issued a statement offering their sympathies to Mr Brikha’s family and confirming it was providing support to his colleagues.

‘The United Workers Union is deeply saddened that a member from Woolworth’s DC died on shift yesterday,’ it Tweeted on Wednesday.

‘We are working with the company to ensure all workers at the site are supported during this sorrowful time and are able to access appropriate services.

‘Every worker should be able to go home to their family unscathed.’

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk