Inquest jury shown video footage of Sunderland engineer moments before he was crushed to death

Stephen Summerside.
Stephen Summerside.

A jury has seen video footage of a Sunderland engineer moments before he was crushed to death inside the lift shaft of a ferry undergoing work at Falmouth docks.

Father-of-twoStephen Summerside, from Roker, can be seen on CCTV manually opening the doors of the lift before stepping on top of the car. Further images then show staff on a floor above call the lift up.

Stephen Summerside with wife Donna.

Stephen Summerside with wife Donna.

The 44-year-old died after getting trapped between the lift and shaft on the MV Ulysses on January 11 last year.

The 51,000-tonne ship, operated by Irish Ferries, was berthed at Queen Elizabeth dock for its annual refit.

The inquest, which opened today (October 16) and is expected to last until Wednesday, heard Mr Summerside died of traumatic asphyxia after getting crushed between the lift car and shaft, a space of between three and six metres.

Pathologist Russell Delaney told the jury inquest in Truro: “Mr Summerside was found several hours after CCTV showed him step onto the lift car. It would have been a relatively quick unconsciousness and death.

“There was clear evidence of trunkle compression, rib fractures and bruising of his back. This would have severely restricted his ability to breath. He had a laceration to his head and a dislocated ankle.”

He was not under the influence of any drink or drugs but there were question marks over why the lift was not in safety mode, which the inquest aims to answer.

It is unclear if Mr Summerside was wearing his helmet at the time but there was one found at the bottom of the lift shaft. He suffered head and neck injuries, upper and lower limb injures and was “black and blue”.

Crew members and paramedics spent about an hour carrying out CPR but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Inspector Billy McWhirter, from Devon and Cornwall Police, said the CCTV images firstly show Mr Summerside inside the lift carrying out a variety of checks. He is then seen outside the lift on deck ten and reaches up to use a key to be able to open the doors.

He then sends the car down to deck nine and steps on top. Meanwhile two staff members on deck 11 press the button to call the lift. They can be seen getting inside and less than a minute later get back out.

A statement read to the inquest from Maciej Kielch, a steward on the Ullysses, was one of the two who called the lift, said: “I did not see any signs telling us not to use the lift or inferring there was a problem with the lift. It arrived on deck and we got in and nothing alerted us something was wrong.”

However when the button was pressed for the lift to move, it did not respond. After several attempts they decided to take the stairs.

“We didn’t report it as it is normal for the lifts to go wrong from time to time,” added the statement.

Mr Summerside, from Sunderland, was last seen at about 8.15am on the day of the incident by co-workers. The CCTV shows him getting onto the lift at about 8.20am and he was found at about 11am.

A statement from his widow Donna was read out which stated that her husband had worked for a company called Lift Serve, which went bankrupt in 2005, and two years later he started work for Lift Tec, which she said was reformed from Lift Serve.

It is owned by Michael Moore, who was also working at the docks as part of a three-man team, including Mr Summerside and another colleague Mr Oaten.

Mrs Summerside said she had received a photo from her husband two days before his death showing his arm was black and blue from the top to the forearm and said it was from being struck by some equipment on board.

Tony Fox, a hydraulic engineer with SafeLine, which provides lift safety systems, said he had been working on the Ulysses too and had seen Mr Summerside at about 8.15am but he was not seen at break time.

“I assumed he was working with Rosie (Mr Oaten)," said Mr Fox. "It is not unusual (to miss break time) as he would go to the shop for a paper or sweets.”

At about 10.30am he was asked to go to another vessel with Mr Moore but as they walked across the docks they received a call to say Mr Summerside was hurt.

They went to the motor room, which is above deck 11, and through the inspection door could see Mr Summerside trapped. They managed to release the breaks enough to get him out and he was given medical attention.

The inquest was due to hear from both Mr Oaten and Mr Moore before evidence from a health and safety mechanical inspector, the former health and safety manager from A&P, the Health and Safety Executive and the police.