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Machine on which crush victim died was unsafe, inquest hears

The horrific moment a 27-year-old man died after being crushed while checking a hydraulic platform has been shown at the opening of his inquest.

Video footage taken from a CCTV recording showed how Gareth Keys was working on top of a scissor elevating platform when it suddenly toppled over, crushing the young man between it and the wall of a deep ravine.

He was rushed to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital but died within an hour of the accident due to severe injuries to his spine and chest.

The father-of-two, from Victoria Road, Belfast, was working as a service engineer for Highway Plant Co Ltd, Dunmurry, when the accident happened there nearly six years ago.

He was carrying out checks on the platform, which had just been returned after a two-day hire. The inquest later heard that the platform was returned by the construction company, which had hired it without any fault being reported.

The inquest, being held at Belfast Coroner's Court with the jury of seven men and three women required for workplace accidents, heard from an expert witness that several of the platform's safety features did not work properly and therefore couldn't prevent the platform from reaching an unsafe height without its stabilising legs being engaged.

However, Coroner Jim Kitson was also told that Mr Keys should have performed several checks on the ground to establish if the systems were working in order for the platform to safely reach its full operating height.

Nancy Henry from the Health and Safety Executive was the investigating officer into the accident on May 16, 2008. She took the jury through the CCTV footage showing the final minutes leading up to the accident.

The inquest heard that while the scissor platform could be fully elevated to 15 metres only if its four stabilising legs were deployed, if these were not deployed, then a safety cut-off control should have prevented the platform from being elevated higher than 6.7 metres or being moved forward.

She described how the scissor platform, with Mr Keys standing on top operating it, was first elevated to its maximum height with the four legs deployed, and then lowered.

However, she explained how during a second raising of the platform, the legs were not in position and the platform not only passed its safe operating height, but also managed to move slightly forward, causing it to topple over with Mr Keys on top of it.

Mr Keys' father William told the inquest that his family learnt about his son's accident when the firm contacted his daughter to inform her. By the time that he and his other son arrived in hospital, they were told that he had already passed away. Mr Keys snr told the inquest that his son had been living at home for about two years as he was separated at that time from the mother of his son Joel and daughter Sharon, now aged 12 and 11 respectively.

The former student of Royal Belfast Academical Institution had started his engineering apprenticeship at Harland and Wolff and enjoyed a good relationship with his former partner and saw his children every weekend, Mr Keys told the inquest.

"Gareth was always reading, he was very studious and over the last two years or so had become very interested in studying ancient languages and hieroglyphics," he added.

At hearing.


Service engineer Gareth Keys (27) died on May 16, 2008 after being injured while checking a hydraulic platform which toppled over, crushing his spine and chest.

He worked in Highway Plant Co Ltd in Dunmurry, which hires out machinery for use in the construction industry.

In October 2013, his family were denied legal aid to have a barrister represent them at his inquest.

Belfast Telegraph