February 16, 2022 12.47 pm

Inquest finds building site worker died crushed in dumper truck accident

Harry Cheston, 23, was on a building site in Lincoln

An inquest has concluded that 23-year-old Harry Cheston died as a result of an accident after becoming trapped underneath an overturned dumper truck.

Harry Jake Cheston was working for subcontractors Chesterfield-based Melfort Construction on the Lindum Rudgard Lane student accommodation site off West Parade on the day of his tragic death – January 9, 2020.

Family, friends and colleagues previously paid tribute to Harry, who was from Rainworth in Nottinghamshire, while a fundraising page set up in his memory raised over £4,500.

An inquest was held by a jury in the presence of assistant coroner Marianne Johnson over three days at the Myle Cross Centre in Lincoln between February 14-16, 2022.

The Record of Inquest said: “On January 9, 2020 on a building site at West Parade, Rudgard Lane, Harry Cheston was driving a dumper truck when it overturned on an embankment.

“He was crushed between the steering column and the seat. He died of his injuries.”

A medical cause of death was previously confirmed as crush asphyxia, otherwise known as traumatic asphyxia, which happens when there is pressure placed on the chest so that normal respiration cannot occur, according to Science Direct.

The toxicologist said there was a small amount of alcohol in Harry’s blood, but there was no suggestion that he was under the influence at the time of his death.

The Health and Safety Executive previously said the investigation would not be completed until after the inquest has been held, so it remains ongoing

| Photo: The Lincolnite

On Wednesday, February 16 the coroner summarised the evidence which had been heard earlier in the week, including from Harry’s co-workers at Melfort Construction – groundsman Richard Heaven and site supervisor Phillip Hayes.

Mr Heaven started work on the site in October 2019 and was inducted by Carl Allen, who is a site manager for Lindum Group and was responsible for supervising the Lindum employees but not the sub-contractors on site.

When he started work on the site Mr Heaven said it was reasonably level and his initial job was to scrape the soil away for it to be later loaded onto lorries. He was also asked to build an access ramp for the piling rig to reach the piling mat, which he also constructed.

On the morning of January 9, 2020, as far as Mr Heaven could recall, barriers were installed on the edge of the access road and the area in front of the ‘pier’ area. He heard Harry ask Phillip Hayes where to tip the soil, and Mr Hayes instructed that it was to be tipped in the previous tipping point as had been done previously.

Mr Heaven heard Mr Hayes tell Harry to open the barriers, do the tip, and then close them again. He saw Harry reverse the dumper and drive it forward, but didn’t see him tip. He recalls seeing Carl Allen running up the site shouting.

He also noted that Harry was always known to be a responsible, conscientious worker, and Mr Heaven had no concerns over how the spoil was being tipped.

| Photo: The Lincolnite

Phillip Hayes, Site Supervisor for Melfort Construction, initially worked with Harry in the early stages of the project who was employed as a site operative and dumper driver, moving soil from pilings that had been created.

On January 9, 2020 he arrived on site at around 7.20am and called out an engineer due to problems with a pile cropper. He couldn’t recall seeing any barriers the day before, but remembers seeing them on the 9th and across the pier area, confirming that they were closed at the time.

That morning, Harry was banking with Mr Hayes initially, while Mr Heaven did pile mat cropping. Mr Hayes admitted during the inquest that in hindsight maybe other measures could’ve been taken, and that he hadn’t inspected the tipping area or the stability of the ground.

Photo: The Lincolnite

Mr Hayes said the accident happened within minutes of him going down to the bottom of the site. Harry was stood at the top of the access ramp on the corner, near the excavator, and shouted ‘Shall I move the barriers, tip, and then move them back’, to which Mr Hayes replied ‘yes’.

Mr Hayes continued talking to the engineer and recalled Mr Allen shouting “Harry, no!”. He saw the dumper tipped upside down and from a statement he gave previously Mr Hayes said Harry didn’t have his seatbelt on correctly.

Detective Sergeant Nixon from Lincolnshire Police carried out an initial investigation before passing it onto the HSE, confirming their was no third party involvement in the incident.

Emergency crews blocked off the scene. | Photo: The Lincolnite

Robert Baxendine, a specialist inspector from HSE, said no significant faults were found during his examination and the general condition of the dumper was good. The damaged caused was consistent with the dumper overturning.

After the conclusion of the hearing, a Lindum Group spokesperson said: “We were deeply saddened that Harry, an employee of our contractor, Melfort Construction Services, suffered a fatal accident on one of our sites in January 2020 in tragic circumstances.

“Our sympathies remain with his family, friends and colleagues. We have fully co-operated with the coroner and her enquiry and the HSE and we are unable to comment any further given that there is ongoing HSE investigation.”

Paul Goodwin, Director at Melfort Construction, said: “We deeply regret the tragic death of Harry Cheston. Harry was a respected and valued member of our site team who is deeply missed. We continue to work with the Health and Safe Executive and our thoughts remain with Harry’s family and friends.”