Man died of spinal injury after falling on escalator, inquest told

Cork pensioner placed his crutch on moving step in shopping centre and lost his balance

A 78-year-old man died after suffering catastrophic injuries when he lost his balance and fell to the bottom of an escalator in a Cork shopping centre, an inquest has heard.

John Murphy, of Silversprings Avenue, mayfield, was dragged forward after placing his crutch on the moving escalator step, which caused him to fall down the stairway in Merchant's Quay Shopping Centre at 3pm on May 31st last.

His widow, Mary told Cork City Coroner’s Court that she and her husband were descending from the first floor of the shopping centre at the time and that Mr Murphy had wanted her to “go before him”.

“ I was on my way down the escalator when John fell from behind me. I remember screaming to stop the escalator. By the time it stopped, I was at the bottom and so was John,” she said.


Ms Murphy told the inquest she tried to stop him as he fell past her but was unable to. She said her husband had early stage Parkinsons Disease and although he used a crutch as a walking aid to give him extra security, he could get about without it.

Garda Darren McNulty, who investigated the incident, said he viewed CCTV footage and Mr Murphy could be clearly seen putting his crutch in front of him as he stepped on to the top of the escalator.

“He placed his walking stick on one of the steps and it appeared this caused him to fall...the moving step carried him forward, causing him to lose his balance and fall down, passing his wife on the way,” he said.

Neck injury

A number of witnesses, including a GP, a nurse and a pharmacist told the inquest that they tended to Mr Murphy, who was bleeding profusely from a head wound and had a neck injury after the fall.

Dr Aisling Bambury said Mr Murphy's airways were clear but he was not breathing. She and nurse Carol Murphy used a defibrillator while pharmacist Eoin Fitzpatrick tried to staunch the bleeding from his head. He did not respond to the electric shock treatment and Dr Bambury pronounced him dead at the scene.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster told the inquest Mr Murphy died from a traumatic cervical spinal cord injury associated with blunt force chest trauma due to a fall down an escalator. She said he would have lost consciousness almost immediately and not suffered in any way.

William Emmanuel, manager of the shopping centre, said the escalator was checked and serviced six times a year by the manufacturers and also examined twice a year by insurers who found no evidence of any fault or malfunction.

Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn said it appeared from Dr Bolster's postmortem findings and Garda McNulty review of CCTV footage that Mr Murphy's early stage Parkinsons Disease played no part in causing the fatal accident.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death and Mr Comyn extended his sympathy to Ms Murphy on her loss. He hoped she would draw comfort from Dr Bolster’s evidence that her husband would have lapsed into unconsciousness quickly and not suffered.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times