Ipswich: Man shouted to colleague to save himself as lorry tipped at docks, court hears

Haulier elected not to give evidence

Haulier elected not to give evidence

A PORT worker who was seriously injured when a lorry loader tipped over at Ipswich Docks has described how he shouted to a colleague, who was crushed to death in the incident, to save himself.

Stephen Burden, 43, was standing on the lorry loader helping to unload pontoons when he felt the vehicle start to topple as the first pontoon was being lifted off by crane.

Mr Burden said he heard his colleague Neville Wightman who was standing on the ground nearby shouting at him to get off the lorry loader. “I said get out of the way. Save your own life, don’t worry about me.”

Mr Burden described how he jumped as far as he could off the lorry loader as the pontoons he had been standing on started to slide from underneath him but said Mr Wightman couldn’t do anything as the lorry toppled over.

As Mr Burden tried to get up after jumping from the lorry he was struck on the back by the pontoon he he had been standing on and found himself trapped under it.

“I thought I was a goner,” said Mr Burden.

He recalled how a work colleague tried to help relieve the pressure of the pontoon on him before he was eventually freed by the fire brigade and taken to hospital with serious injuries to his hips and pelvis.

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He said he had offered to climb up on to the pontoons on the lorry to hook them on to the crane and had then stood in what he considered to be a safe position on another stack of pontoons as the first one was lifted.

Mr Burden, of Lowestoft, was giving evidence on the second day of the trial of Paul Napier, 49, of Inglenook, Clacton-on-Sea who has denied the manslaughter of 52-year-old Mr Wightman, of Penzance Road, Kesgrave, on December 16, 2011.

The court has heard that Napier has admitted an offence under the Health amd Safety at Work Act of failing to ensure that Mr Wightman and Mr Burden were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

It has been alleged that Mr Wightman died after Napier, who had been running late after being stuck in traffic, forgot to extend stabilising legs on either side of his lorry loader before using the crane on his vehicle to off-load pontoons.

Mr Wightman was fatally injured when a pontoon, weighing more than a tonne, landed on him when Napier’s lorry loader tipped over.

William Carter, prosecuting claimed that Napier had been in a rush to unload the pontoons after being delayed in traffic and hadn’t taken the “essential and elementary” step of extending stabilising legs on either side of his lorry when using the crane on the vehicle.

Napier told police in a prepared statement that he had been distracted by a conversation with one of the men helping him unload the pontoons and had forgotten to lower the stabilising legs on his lorry.

Questioned by defence counsel, Nigel Lithman, Mr Burden accepted that Napier was a “nice bloke” and wouldn’t have intentionally caused him any harm.

Darren Ray, site manager for Red 7 Marine, which employed Mr Wightman and Mr Burden told the court that if he had seen Mr Burden on top of the lorry while one of the pontoons was being moved he would have told him to get down because of the risk to his safety.

The trial continues today (Wed)

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