An inquest in Northampton today (Wednesday) said that Peter Hummel, 56, died from severe head injuries after the vehicle he was working on landed on him.
The inquest heard that Mr Hummel was on his way back from a job when he decided to help out a colleague in the early hours of August 19 last year, just off Junction 3 of the A14.
His colleague, Adam Collett, had been towing a vehicle transporter from Cambridge which had broken down several times after an issue with the suspension.
An airbag had burst and a temporary fix was made by other engineers prior to the incident.
When the airbag over-inflated it left an “inviting” gap in between the wheel and wheelarch.
Mr Hummel, an experienced recovery operator and manager, got between the two to pass a lever-arm to Mr Collett, who was underneath the vehicle, in a bid to reconnect the arm.
But when Mr Hummel cut a cable tie, the valve dropped and the air left the suspension – causing the chassis to drop and trapping him in between the wheel and wheelarch.
Mr Hummel, from Leicestershire, had less than a second to get out and died almost instantly.
Paramedics declared him dead at 2.37am.
Forensic collision investigator Brian Johnson, who knew Mr Hummel from previous work, likened the incident to putting your head in a crocodile’s mouth.
He told the inquest: “It was a moment of absolute madness where he has gone for the gap.
“I think there are many people who have done things where they think they probably should not have done it.
“He [Mr Hummel] was always very competent at work.
“The analogy is sticking your head in a crocodile’s mouth.
“Any experienced mechanic would have known that could have happened.”
Mr Collett, who worked with Mr Hummel for Kibworth-based Crouch Recovery, described the moment his colleague lost his life.
In a statement read out by senior coroner Anne Pember, he said: “Pete was under the wheelarch.
“The next thing I heard was a suddent gush of air and I felt the chassis of the vehicle drop.
“I didn’t know whether it was going to pin me or not.
“I scrambled out and tried to comfort Pete as much as I could.”
In a statement read out in court, Mr Hummel’s son Harry said: “He was always into his mechanics and his cars.
“He used to work long hours and used to be on call which he was happy to do.”
The coroner directed the jury of five men and four women to record a verdict of accidental death, which they did after half an hour of deliberation.