Questions over the road surface at the location where a popular father-of-three was working when he was crushed by a coach were raised at his inquest.
Daniel Haffenden, of Cavendish Avenue, was outside the Majestic Hotel on July 19 last year when tragedy struck. An inquest into his death yesterday (Thursday) heard the 43-year-old had jacked up the coach because it had a deflated tyre but the coach collapsed on top of him.
Coach driver Frederick White said he noticed the tyre was slightly deflated that morning and had driven it from its location near the hotel to outside it so that passengers could see him and ‘know there was a problem’. He said company owner Mr Haffenden, who ran DK Truck Tyres, asked him to lift the suspension. Mr White said he then went on to turn the engine off and heard the hissing of air so turned the ignition back on to stop the loss of air. He said he later heard an ‘almighty bang’. Asked by the family if he been authorised by head office to move the coach to outside the hotel after he had spotted the flat tyre he replied, “I can’t remember exactly.”
Grant Thunder, a vehicle examiner, told the inquest that apart from the tyre there were no defects on the coach.
Charles Simmons-Jacobs, a mechanical engineer for the Health and Safety Executive, said the camber of the road - which is where the road is slightly arched - was ‘significant’, adding, “I would say the camber on that road was far greater than one would normally meet.”
He said the jack had tilted considerably, adding, “That was an unsafe way of jacking the coach in my opinion.”
In response his family said Mr Haffenden, who was described by his widow Kerry after his death as ‘always smiling and bubbly’, that he was experienced in his job. Mr Simmons-Jacobs said that the coach has a self levelling mechanism which means it may have tried to level itself but he was unable to say from investigations whether this had happened on the day.
Coroner Alan Craze recorded a verdict of death by misadventure and said Mr Haffenden would have been unconscious within a second adding, “I personally believe for what it’s worth, on the balance of probalities, if the key is in the ignition and that activates the self-levelling mechanism ,that the self-levelling mechanism may have been activated and may have worked, but there’s no direct evidence.
“The central point here is there would have been very much a greater chance of this tragedy not occurring if the jack had been put on to ground that was level or nearly level.”