One worker pulled himself out of the pile of rubble despite a broken leg while the bodies of his workmates remained trapped.
The men died when a 26ft retaining wall next to where they were working collapsed at the Hawkeswood Metal Recycling plant in the Nechells area of Birmingham.
It buried them in tons of concrete and scrap metal which the wall was holding back.
The victims were agency workers. Four were originally from Gambia and one from Senegal. All had come to work from Spain.
Members of their families and friends gathered outside the plant.
It is thought that one of the victims, Ousman Jabbie, had worked at the recycling plant for less than a week.
He had moved in with Alimamo Jammeh, another of the victims, in the Aston area of the city.
Both men had only recently heard their wives and children had been due to join them in Britain.
Mohammed Jangana and Bangaly Dukureh also died in the accident.
The fifth victim Saibo Saillah, who was living in Edgbaston, was the father of five children, including three-year-old twins.
All the men were believed to have been receiving the minimum wage.
One former worker said that he and others had been concerned about the walls. “They were leaning. When we were cleaning they were shaking,” he said.
Mafugi Jammeha, a friend of Jagana and Dukureh, said the men would be paid by the hour and sometimes turn up at work only to be told they were not needed after a couple of hours.
“Some of them have a language barrier so they can’t get into other jobs straight away, so they have to start at this place.”
Hawkeswood Metal began trading more than 40 years ago. A fire broke out on a 700-tonne scrap metal heap at the plant in February this year. In August 2011 more than 100 tonnes of shredded scrap metal caught fire.
The company was fined £50,000 after being prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive when a worker’s arm was broken on an unguarded conveyor belt in 2010.
It recorded an annual turnover of more than £30 million, reporting a net profit in 2015 of £327,000 in accounts submitted in February this year, and employs 26 people.
The Health and Safety Executive fatality statistics released last week show a provisional total of 144 workers killed in work-related incidents in the year to April. This is slightly up on last year’s total of 142 and 136 the year before that.
There has been an increase in deaths in construction, up from 35 to 43. This was the third work-related multiple fatality in less than a year in England.
Four people were killed and many more injured in the Bosley Wood Flour MiIl explosion on 17 July 2015.
Four more were killed in the collapse of a boiler house which was being prepared for demolition at Didcot Power Station on 23 February 2016.
The body of Michael Collings was recovered but the other three workers still lie under the rubble nearly 20 weeks later to the horror and grief of their families.