A Northern Ireland factory worker was crushed to death after being trapped in an industrial food mixer, an inquest heard yesterday.
Andrew Philip Johnston (26), from Dollingstown, Co Armagh, died from crush asphyxia and multiple injuries after the giant machine started suddenly when he fell into it on July 4, 2006.
An inquest at Craigavon Court House heard how Mr Johnston had been a maintenance technician at Avondale Foods in Lurgan for 10 years and had been carrying out checks on the machine when he became trapped in the metal trough. He suffered serious internal injuries. Despite resuscitation efforts by paramedics Mr Johnston, who had to be cut free, died at the scene.
In his post mortem report state pathologist Dr James Lucas concluded that the effects of the crush and internal injuries were responsible for the death.
Witnesses described how Mr Johnston had been leaning across the mixer as he attempted the repairs. The interlock, safety switch which prevents the machine from moving while the lid is open, had also been disconnected.
Nancy Henry, from the Northern Ireland Health and Safety Executive who carried out an investigation into the accident, said turning this safety switch off meant that the machine would have registered that the lid was closed and would have allowed the rotors to move.
She said that during their investigation the machine could not be made to malfunction.
“At no point could the machine be made to spuriously start of its own accord. You had to press the button. It was possible Mr Johnston pressed the button that started the movement of the panels,” she added.
No prosecutions were brought in relation to the accident.
Family members including Mr Johnston’s father, Samuel, left the court before the jury had presented their findings.
Mr Johnston declined to make an official comment but said his son’s death had been an accident and that the family wanted to move on. Coroner Suzanne Anderson, described the death as “tragic” and conveyed sympathy to the Johnston family.