Peacock Farm investigation
September 20, 2007
A FATHER whose son was crushed to death after a digger knocked over a steel apparatus at Peacock Farm claims the driver was suffering from blackouts, an inquest heard.
Christopher Duffy was killed at the Bracknell construction site last July after a three-tonne device used to support trenches toppled over, trapping him.
John Dynes, driving a digger, was moving cement over the trench box at the time.
Mr Duffy, a 21-year-old from Coventry, was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics having suffered multiple chest injuries, including collapsed lungs and broken ribs.
His father, James Duffy, at an inquest at Windsor Guildhall last Friday, said: “Christopher was always laughing and joking about everything, that was just the kind of person he was.
“The night before he died, he spoke to me on the phone because I was in hospital and he said that he had walked off the site that day because he had a fight with John Dynes.
“He also said that he was worried because John was behaving in an erratic way.
“Before that conversation I had not spoken to him directly for some months because he owed me money, there was no malice in the silence though, it was just a father and son thing.”
Mr Duffy said that, until that conversation, he had not realised that John Dynes would be working on site, as he had assumed he would be working in management by then.
He also said that he overheard a conversation in their local pub in Coventry between Mr Dynes and the landlord, Patrick Matthews, which led him to believe that Mr Dynes was suffering from brain tumours that caused him to black out.
Both Mr Dynes and Mr Matthews denied having any health-related conversations at the pub on the day in question.
Mr Dynes, who also denied he had ever suffered from brain tumours or blackouts, said: “The day before Christopher was killed I had a blazing row with him and fired him.
“It happened quite a lot because I was not happy with the quality of his work, but he would always come back and carry on. It’s just the way it was.”
Tragically, the day after he returned to the site, Christopher was crushed by what is known in the industry as a trench box, which was left beside the trench by fellow worker, Mark Cox.
It is common practice for the boxes to be further away from the trenches, but an order given by Mr Dynes to Mr Cox to move some cement meant that the box was not moved.
Mr Dynes then moved some cement in his digger, which involved swinging the digger bucket over the top of the trench box.
Mr Cox said that, although he had never known a trench box to fall over, it was common practice to move them further away and that “if I had had the chance to move the box away then none of this would have happened”.
John Dickinson, from the health and safety executive, said: “John Dynes did not foresee the risk of moving his digger bucket over the trench box and I do not think that anyone could have done.
“Before this incident no-one had ever heard of a trench box falling over in any circumstance.
“It was a relatively small error of judgement, that unfortunately had major consequences.”
The inquest, conducted by Berkshire coroner Peter Bedford, will continue on an unconfirmed date in November.