Ipswich docks death: Paul Napier guilty of manslaughter

  • 17 April 2013
  • From the section England
Neville Wightman
Image caption Mr Wightman had been helping unload the pontoon

A haulier has been found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter after a man was crushed to death at Ipswich docks.

Neville Wightman, 52, died as the lorry's crane was unloading a pontoon, at Cliff Quay in December 2011.

The lorry's owner, Paul Napier, 48, of Inglenook, Clacton, Essex, was found guilty at Ipswich Crown Court.

He had already admitted a separate charge of a breach of health and safety law. He will be sentenced on 17 May.

The court heard the lorry's stabilising legs were not extended and Mr Wightman was crushed by the pontoon as the lorry tipped over.

Emergency services were called just before 18:00 GMT on 16 December 2011 to a report that two men had been crushed by the pontoon.

'Waste of life'

Mr Wightman died at the scene. A 42-year-old man, from Lowestoft, was taken to hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries. He has since returned to work on a part-time basis.

Image caption Paul Napier had denied manslaughter

In a statement, Mr Wightman's family said he was a "loving husband" and "always willing to help his family, friends and work colleagues".

"He retained a wealth of knowledge, which he built up from his career, and he would share this with others," his family said.

"What a waste of his life. We are still grieving and others are also grieving with us. It will take time to heal this huge void in our lives but his memory will always remain with us.

"Those responsible for Neville's death will never know what they have done to our family, nor the pain we are feeling. However, they will have to live with the consequences for the rest of their life."

Health and Safety Executive inspector Antonina Drury said: "This tragic incident could easily have been avoided had Paul Napier followed the basic rules of undertaking a safe lifting operation.

"Had he ensured that the right equipment was properly deployed, and had he kept everyone safely clear of the lifting zone until the load had been landed, then Mr Wightman would still be alive.

"This case demonstrates all too graphically what can go wrong, and why extreme care must be taken all times during the planning, management and execution of such operations."

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