An inquest jury has returned a verdict of accidental death after viewing CCTV footage of a freak cherrypicker accident at Cork City’s main bus depot.
The footage showed how Peter Downey, 59, from Inniscarra, Co Cork, suffered fatal injuries after he fell from a height when the cherrypicker he was operating toppled over at Bus Éireann’s Capwell garage at Summerhill South, Cork, on November 23, 2015.
Cork City Coroner’s Court was told that Mr Downey had installed two Steinbruckner bus washing machines at the depot in 2007, and had the maintenance contract for them, calling up to 15 times a year to service them. He arrived at the depot at around 1pm on November 23, 2015, to repair one of the machines. He sealed off the faulty machine, and drove a hired scissor-lift cherrypicker between the two washers to gain access to water hose pipes, which were suspended above and between the washers. The other washer remained open.
Bus Éireann engineering operative Willie Cronin told coroner Philip Comyn that he drove a bus into the working washer and turned it on, and that it moved along its tracks, and returned to begin a second cycle, without incident.
As it began moving again, Mr Cronin said Mr Downey, who was standing in the elevated platform of the cherrypicker, asked him to move the faulty washer a few feet to provide better access to the hose pipes.
Mr Cronin said that, as he walked towards the faulty washer, Mr Downey shouted at him to stop the working washer.
However, before Mr Cronin could run to stop it, the water hoses caught the cherrypicker and toppled it, throwing Mr Downey from the platform.
“I ran to stop it, but I couldn’t make it in time. I was at the other machine, I was helpless,” Mr Cronin said.
Investigating Garda Brendan Holohan said the cherrypicker platform was at a height of just over 4.3m at the time of the incident.
Mr Downey was rushed by ambulance to CUH, where he died on November 27. Assistant State pathologist Margot Bolster said the cause of death was traumatic brain injury consistent with a fall from a height.
Health and Safety Authority inspector Mark Rolands investigated the incident and said the DPP directed there be no prosecution.
He said he discussed with Bus Éireann management the need for clarification about the control of work sites on the depot when sub-contractors are on site, and that these contractors need to have absolute control of the work site for the duration of such works.
Bus Éireann regional engineer Gordon Bryan said that, arising from talks with the HSA, and following a company review in the wake of the fatal accident, the company has now changed its procedures to ensure that both bus washer machines are taken out of operation to facilitate repairs.
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