Digger operator trapped after 20 tonnes of limestone fell on cab, court hears

‘I thought if I am not going to get off of this I am going to burn in it’ operator tells court

Paddy O’Brien said emergency services had to lift the blocks off the machine rather than cut him out because there was a risk of oil, which was spilling from damaged hydraulic lines, igniting. Photograph: Collins Courts

Paddy O’Brien said emergency services had to lift the blocks off the machine rather than cut him out because there was a risk of oil, which was spilling from damaged hydraulic lines, igniting. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A digger operator was trapped in the machine after blocks of limestone weighing up to 20 tonnes fell on his cab during excavation work, the High Court heard.

Paddy O’Brien (45), from O’Loughlin Court, Kilkenny, is suing his employers, Holdensrath Quarry Ltd and Irish Blue Limestone Holdings Ltd, over the accident at the Holdensrath quarry in Kilkenny on August 29th, 2016.

He claims he suffered injuries which prevented him from working again as a result of the alleged negligence and breach of duty of his employer.

Liability has been admitted and the case is before Mr Justice David Keane for assessment of damages only.

The judge adjourned the case until Thursday after Michael Counihan SC, for Mr O’Brien, sought to amend the claim to include in it future losses calculated by an actuary. Jeremy Maher SC, instructed by Carrie McDermott of MDM Solicitors, for the defendants said, he was not objecting to the amendment.

The court heard Mr O’Brien operated a track digger which extracted pre-cut slabs of limestone from the quarry face by digging them out with the bucket at the end of the 25-30ft long excavator arm. On the day of the accident, he said he was extracting the limestone, and the next thing he remembered was coming around in the seat of his cab.

His body was twisted and he was completely trapped by the cab safety super-structure.

He said four pieces of limestone, between eight and 20 tonnes in weight, had fallen on the cab. He was shocked and confused but when he “saw the reality, it started hitting me, I am more or less in trouble here.

“On top of that, I could see smoke coming out of the machine behind me and I thought this is going to go on fire”.

“I thought if I am not going to get off of this I am going to burn in it”.

He said emergency services had to lift the blocks off the machine rather than cut him out because there was a risk of oil, which was spilling from damaged hydraulic lines, igniting.

It took about an hour and a half to complete the lifting operation and get him out, the court heard.

He was put on a spinal board and taken to St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny where he was found to have three broken ribs, bruising to his lung, thigh and left knee, among other injuries. He was discharged the next day but a week later had to be readmitted with a double clot on his lung. He was told if he had not come into hospital again, he would have been dead that night.

He had difficulty walking and was housebound for the first two months, and for a year and a half afterwards he still suffered pain as a result of his injuries. He had given up cycling, walking and gardening because he was no longer able to do them due to his injuries, he said.

The case continues.