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Widow weeps as she hears how husband was crushed by crane

The devastated widow of a maintenance fitter killed at work broke down yesterday as she heard how he was crushed by a crane.

Roy Montgomery (55) died four days after he was wedged into an six-inch gap between the top of a factory crane he was working on at his employer's FG Wilson Larne premises in Co Antrim, and a roof beam, on October 9, 2008.

In a unanimous verdict, the jury at the inquest into the Newtownabbey man’s tragic death found the “entire system of working was unsafe and there was a lack of health and safety as well as a lack of risk assessment”.

Mr Montgomery and his colleague Stephen McNeill had been working together to fix an electrical fault on the crane moments before the accident happened.

The 55-year-old Co Antrim man had climbed onto the crane to fix an electrical fault as Mr McNeill operated the crane from a control pad below. After fixing the fault the pair carried out a few dry runs of the crane to make sure the machinery was operating properly but Mr Montgomery stood up out of the cab and was hit by a fixed roof girder.

As the crane passed beneath, the Newtownabbey fitter was squeezed into the six-inch gap between it and the girder.

While he was able to walk away from the incident, he had suffered a serious injury to the carotid artery in his neck which would ultimately cut off blood supply to his brain. He died four days later in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital.

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Earlier this year, FG Wilson was fined £90,000 plus costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of health and safety legislation in relation to the incident. Civil proceedings are ongoing.

On the second anniversary of his death, Mr Montgomery's widow Linda was joined by other family members at Belfast Coroner's Court to hear a senior safety inspector outline the failings that contributed to the tragedy.

Louis Burns, principal inspector at the Health and Safety Executive NI, revealed that Mr McNeill, who had only been with the firm four months, had not been trained in how to operate the crane.

He told Northern Ireland's senior coroner John Leckey that a two-day course FG Wilson had put Mr McNeill through when he joined covered too many topics in too short a space of time.

“It was more a box-ticking exercise rather than meaningful training induction,” he said.

Mr Burns went on to express concern that a legally required “risk assessment” had not been undertaken before Mr Montgomery and Mr McNeill started the repair in a bid to identify potential hazards.

The inspector said a barrier on top of the crane would also have stopped Mr Montgomery standing up.

Assessing the circumstances that led up to the accident, Mr Burns added: “The entire system of work was completely defective and unsafe.”

Assistant State Pathologist Peter Ingram told the court that the type of injury could not have been treated and death was inevitable once it had been sustained.

The jury also noted as a contributory factor the fact Mr McNeill and Mr Montgomery could not see each other and were relying on verbal communication in a noisy factory environment.

After the findings were delivered, Operations Director at FG Wilson Paul Kirkpatrick apologised to the family.

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