Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Inquest hears of father's roof fall

The owner of a construction firm died after falling through a perspex panel on a farm roof, Ballymena Courthouse heard

The owner of a family-run construction business died when he crashed through a perspex panel of a farm roof he was fixing, an inquest has heard.

Philip Williamson, 64, sustained fatal head and neck injuries when he plummeted down into a cattle foot bath inside the building in Portrush last November, coroner Suzanne Anderson was told.

Mr Williamson worked with his son and grandson, both also called Philip, in his Bushmills-based business, which regularly carried out maintenance and building work on farms in the area.

Farmer James Chestnut, a family friend, had asked him to replace the leaky roof on the milking parlour at his 200-acre farm on the Ballybogey Road.

The fatal accident happened only minutes after Mr Williamson, a married father-of-five, arrived at the farm on the first day of the job as he tried to traverse the roof of the adjoining cattle pen to access the parlour roof.

His son Philip James Williamson, who had arrived on site two hours earlier, described the moment he saw his father break through one of the perspex panels, which were spaced at intervals along the roof to let light in.

"I saw my father's bright orange overalls disappearing through the roof," he said in a statement read to Ballymena Courthouse.

Mr Williamson, who said he had earlier covered a section of the perspex panels in an effort to mitigate safety issues, said he rushed down off the roof and ran into the building.

"I found my dad lying on the cattle foot bath," he said.

Mr Williamson, who had actually worked as a labourer for Mr Chestnut for 20 years before joining his father's firm, wept in the witness box as his statement was read out.

"Before the ambulance crew arrived, I knew my father was gone," he said.

Lawrence Knox, inspector with the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI), said it appeared that Mr Williamson had stepped on one of the perspex panels as he walked across.

He said the roof of the cattle pen was in "good condition", having been only built around five years earlier.

"Tragically a lot of fatalities during roof work are caused by falls either off edges or through fragile surfaces," he said.

Mr Knox told the coroner the HSENI was keen to highlight the dangers of such work to the farming community.

Finding the cause of death as head and neck injuries sustained in the fall, Ms Anderson passed her sympathies to Mr Williamson's family.

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