Belfast Telegraph

Robotic arm crushed worker at tobacco plant, Belfast Coroner's Court told

By Michael McHugh

An employee of a multinational tobacco manufacturer died after a piece of equipment fell on him and crushed his neck, an inquest has heard.

Trevor Allen (63) became trapped under a heavy robotic arm at a plant owned by Japan Tobacco International (JTI), Gallaher's in Co Antrim.

The State Pathologist told a Coroner's Court the flow of oxygen to his brain would have been interrupted as he was caught by the neck between scaffolding and the machinery arm.

Paramedic Norman Kenny recalled high emotions at the site.

"The place was in hysterics and someone had to start and organise and prioritise and my priorities started with your father and remained with your father," he told the victim's son Robin.

Mr Allen, a married maintenance engineer from Sand Road in Galgorm, worked at the Ballymena factory of Gallaher's for over 30 years. The company was taken over in 2007 by JTI.

The victim was carrying out repair work on the equipment when a part of it fell on top of him in July 2011. He ended up lying partly on the ground and partly draped over scaffolding which was used for maintenance access.

State Pathologist Professor Jack Crane told the Belfast inquest: "Death was due to the accident in which he was trapped between the scaffolding bar and the arm."

He said the damage could have been caused within three or four minutes. An Ambulance Service paramedic was not immediately called by staff, with timings given by witnesses suggesting a gap of perhaps 20 minutes between the accident and Mr Kenny's arrival.

The paramedic said he was relieved when a colleague of the injured man, a part-time firefighter, arrived having been alerted in a different part of the factory.

Colleagues spent some time trying to free Mr Allen until one removed the scaffolding bar and helped lower him to the ground.

The victim's wife Eleanor said: "We have increasingly had concerns that there were some substantial failures in the emergency procedures followed."

The inquest continues today.

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