Worker died after being run over at Wellingborough fair, inquest finds

Flowers left at the scene in Bassett's Park, Wellingborough, in 2011
Flowers left at the scene in Bassett's Park, Wellingborough, in 2011

A funfair worker died after being run over by a lorry setting up a ride in Wellingborough, an inquest has found.

Michael John Patrick O’Brien, 45, was killed after being crushed by the vehicle at Bassetts Park in the town in April 2011.

Mr O’Brien, nicknamed Stubby and from Shoreham in West Sussex, was described at the inquest as a “happy-go-lucky chap”.

The inquest, at the Best Western hotel in Corby today (Monday, September 22), heard Mr O’Brien was crushed by an articulated Volvo lorry towing a trailer containing the ride Twister, which was being moved into position in the fairground.

The lorry was being driven by John Guest, a director at Stevens Amusements Ltd, which ran the fair.

Mr Guest and Neil Bealey, who acted as the banksman – directing Mr Guest from behind the vehicle – said they had checked around and underneath the lorry before setting the ride up.

Mr Bealey said: “As the vehicle was moving backwards and forwards I heard a shout out. I raised my hand immediately and shouted ‘Woah’.”

He added that he then walked around the vehicle and noticed Mr O’Brien’s legs sticking out.

In a statement read to the inquest, he said: “I looked at Stubby and was shocked at what I had seen.

“I was shocked but it was clear there was nothing I could do.”

The inquest focused on why Mr O’Brien was next to the lorry.

Mr Bealey added: “I still can’t understand why Stubby was where he was at the time of the incident. There was no reason for him to be there.”

His colleague Eric Biddle agreed, saying in a statement: “I have no idea why Stubby would be in the position he was.

“I can see no reason why he would need to be there.”

Lorries have a reversing alarm which is designed to let others know it is moving backwards, but referring to the incident in question, Mr Guest said: “I think I would have turned it off.”

He said that was because it was noisy and might have prevented him from hearing instructions shouted by his banksman.

After the incident he told police he thought he had done everything he could to ensure the manoeuvre was carried out safely.

Fellow fair worker Rebecca Crome told the inquest she sensed something was the matter with Mr O’Brien on the day he died. She added: “Usually Stubby was very chatty and helpful. He classed all of us as his family but that day he was abrupt with us and not his usual self.”

Northamptonshire coroner Ann Pember said: “As the vehicle was reversing a scream was heard. The driver stopped and it was discovered Michael O’Brien was under the wheel having suffered catastrophic injuries.”

A jury of eight women and four men returned a verdict of accidental death.