Rail death basket 'poorly welded', Essex inquest hears

An Essex rail worker who was repairing overhead lines was fatally injured when a 15ft-high "poorly welded" basket fell on to him, an inquest was told.

Malcolm Slater, 64, of Harold Wood, suffered spinal injuries in the accident at Margaretting, Essex, in June 2008.

Metallurgist Keith Birkitt told the Chelmsford inquest that the quality of the weld had been "poor in places".

Mr Slater suffered spinal injuries in the accident and died in hospital.

Improvements made

Mr Birkitt also said more assessment of the effects of fatigue on the weld should have been carried out.

Network Rail made improvements to lifting machinery after the accident, the hearing was told.

Workers were called in after a train brought down overhead lines about 25 miles north of Liverpool Street station, London, the hearing was told.

A court official told jurors that the basket "sheared off" then landed on Mr Slater, who had been working with fellow "linemen" Phil Miles and Daniel Wild.

Mr Birkitt had been asked to make an expert assessment by the Office of Rail Regulation, jurors heard.

'Normal day'

He said 16% of the weld had been too thin and data analysis showed that the basket's maximum weight limit had been exceeded on the day of the accident and the day before.

Mr Wild said he had not been aware of any previous problems with the lifting equipment, which was fitted on to a Mercedes-Benz Unimog truck but not made by Mercedes-Benz.

"It was just a normal day," he told jurors.

"I do remember feeling unsteady on my feet in the basket.

"I heard a noise. I could not tell you what the noise sounded like but I just knew whatever it was it weren't right. And then I remember nothing."

The inquest continues and is expected to end on Thursday.

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