Forklift truck had not been serviced, son tells inquest
A “prehistoric” forklift truck which toppled over crushing its driver had no effective brakes his son told an inquest.
Robert Dawe, of Martock, in Somerset, manager and co-director of Chard Truck Services, died in hospital on Christmas Day 2010, three months after sustaining serious injuries in the incident at his workplace.
The tragedy happened when Mr Dawe, described by his partner and former wife, Ellen, as: “a company man” who worked 12 to 14 hours a day, decided to use the truck to put back a grating over a gulley that had been cleared out the previous day.
Stagecoach bus driver Leigh Blanning told the inquest that he was checking his bus parked in Chard Truck Services’ yard at 6.50am on October 13, 2010, when he saw a man get on to a forklift and drive forward, and then reverse near the yard’s jet wash which the gulley served. He saw it jolt and: “instinctively I knew the rear left wheel must have gone into the gulley.”
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The truck fell slowly and Mr Blanning thought the driver would have plenty of time to jump clear but Mr Dawe did not manage to escape.
Mr Blanning said lights at the yard did not reach the spot where the forklift was working. He thought one bulb on one light might not have been working. The next day the scene seemed brighter.
Mr Dawe’s son, Lee, who worked for the firm for six years said he had never seen a maintenance record for the forklift which he said was around 30 years old, and did not have a safety belt. In a statement made shortly after the accident he said: “Since I have been there it has never been serviced fully.”
Mr Dawe, who helped found the business with its owner Richard Wheaton, had a 10 per cent shareholding in the company. Mr Wheaton owned 80 per cent at the time of the accident.
The day before the accident Lee Dawe heard his father ask Richard Wheaton and Brian Wheaton, if they could help him put back the gully gratings so he could get on with paperwork the next day, but both said they had other things to do.
Mrs Dawe said her former husband felt he did not get the support he needed from the Wheatons.
The inquest continues.