Pensioner fatally injured by fall on roadworks, inquest hears

Coroner’s Court told Michael Reynolds (73) tripped over unprotected 10-inch kerb

Dublin Coroner’s Court has heard how Michael Reynolds (73) was fatally injured when he tripped over a 10-inch kerb on unprotected roadworks and fractured his spine. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Dublin Coroner’s Court has heard how Michael Reynolds (73) was fatally injured when he tripped over a 10-inch kerb on unprotected roadworks and fractured his spine. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

A pensioner was fatally injured when he tripped over a 10-inch kerb on unprotected roadworks and fractured his spine, an inquest has heard.

Michael Reynolds (73) from Orchard Villas, Termonfeckin, Co Louth, fell as he made his way to a car after attending bingo at Clogherhead Community Hall on October 8th, 2007. He died four days later at the Mater Hospital as a result of the spinal fracture.

Dublin Coroner’s Court heard the works on a 350-metre stretch of Chapel Road beside Clogherhead Community Hall were being carried out by Gibson Brothers (Ireland) Ltd, under contract from Louth County Council.

On the night of the bingo, cars were parked along the roadworks. Witness Doreen Farrell said when she arrived that she saw the new kerbing unfilled at the back and remarked to her daughter how dangerous it was because there were no barriers or cones highlighting it.

The inquest later heard from Health and Safety Authority inspector Kay Baxter that the kerb was more than 10-inches high.

The bingo finished at 10.45pm, by which time it was dark. The inquest heard lighting was very poor and one witness said the area where Mr Reynolds was found was “pitch black”.

Ms Baxter said Mr Reynolds had apparently tripped on the newly installed kerb, falling into the shallow excavation behind and striking his head off the edge of the old footpath as he fell.

Mr Reynolds was initially taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, Co Louth before being transferred overnight to the Mater’s spinal unit.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said doctors reported that an MRI revealed a “potentially lethal” spinal cord injury with “no likelihood of long-term survival”.

Mr Reynolds died on October 12th, 2007. The postmortem gave the cause of death as a spinal cord injury due to a fracture of the spinal column resulting from the fall.

Gibson Brothers (Ireland) Ltd contracts coordinator George Young gave evidence that following the accident he was told by his engineer the roadworks had been “coned” that evening before close of business on the site.

‘No cones’

However, Ms Baxter said she found no evidence to support this. “I interviewed everybody who worked on the site that day. Nobody could remember putting cones in place along the roadside, along the new kerb . . . Various witnesses who attended the bingo said there were no cones,” she said.

Ms Baxter said the cones on site were of a “reasonable weight”, and if people attending bingo had moved them to park you would have expected to see them close by.

Ms Baxter said public lighting was poor and no temporary lighting was in place, the traffic management plan for the works was “poor with no risk assessment for vulnerable road users” and there was no security to prevent the public accessing the works.

At Dundalk Circuit Court in 2011, Gibson Brothers (Ireland) Ltd pled guilty to two sample counts of health and safety breaches in relation to the incident and was fined €30,000. Ms Baxter said this is currently being appealed on the grounds of leniency.

The jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure and recommended better barriers and lighting at future roadworks, carried out on behalf of Louth County Council.