Mechanic Matthew Gordon died after becoming trapped under digger, inquest told
A 21-year-old mechanic was crushed to death by a digger after he was trapped under the wheel.
Matthew Gordon from Co Tyrone was due to fix the mechanical digger but somehow was caught under the track, an inquest has heard.
His friend and colleague found the Castlederg man when he spotted his feet under the track but after moving the digger off the young man he said he "knew he was gone".
Mr Gordon suffered catastrophic injuries when he was crushed by the machine but his devastated parents and family may never know how he became trapped.
The mechanic, who worked for Mills Contracts Ltd in Dromore, and colleague George Kinnear had been sent to fix the excavator after it stopped working because of a problem with the battery.
The pair arrived at the site on the Lisdool Road, Strabane, on January 6. Mr Kinnear explained to the inquest that Mr Gordon went to the digger to clean the tracks so they could put it on to the loader, when tragedy struck.
Minutes later he followed his co-worker to the machine where he found him trapped.
The distressed digger driver desperately tried to save him by moving the digger off him but he was found lying on his back with severe injuries to his head.
Mr Kinnear, who had a close relationship with the deceased, described the moment he realised something was wrong. "I walked towards the digger and could see his feet under the tracks but couldn't see any other part of him," he said. "I got into the cab of the digger and moved it off him to try and save him. But I could see he was gone."
While in the cab he noticed a stone was jammed underneath the right pedal which could have activated the tracks of the machine.
But it is not known whether this played a part in the death of Mr Gordon.
An examination of the digger was carried out and it was found to be working properly while an investigation was launched into the incident by the Northern Ireland Health and Safety Executive.
Kevin Campbell, a health and safety inspector, explained that he was able to come up with a number of possible scenarios which could explain how Mr Gordon came to be under the digger but as there were no witnesses, coupled with the digger being moved, it meant he had no definite explanation.
He told the court that either the track came down on top of Mr Gordon or it went under him.
One scenario is that a stone became dislodged by vibrations and was wedged under the pedal, causing it to move.
A number of family members, including Mr Gordon's parents, left the courtroom as details of his injuries were read to the court.
Dr Charles Monro reported that he became entangled in the tracks and his whole body was crushed by the extreme weight.
His death was extremely sudden, he added.
State pathologist Dr James Lyness recorded that he suffered extensive injuries to his body and lacerations to his face. Mr Gordon suffered severe fractures to his skull and face and laceration of his brain as well as fractures to his ribs as well as bruising to his lungs.
Barrister Martin McDonnell, was representing the Gordon family. Mr Gordon's father Malcolm told how his son was always interested in machinery.
"He loved his work and was an exemplary employee who was so well thought of and loved by all," he said. "At the weekends he would spend time with his friends and was always centre of attention and so popular. Anyone who knew him, loved him."
The jury reached the decision that Mr Gordon died from the weight of the digger which caused multiple injuries. The coroner, Suzanne Anderson, said it was unfortunate that the evidence could not lead to the mechanics as to how he became trapped. She extended her sympathies to his parents and family circle.