Annfield Plain company faces health and safety charges after tragedy

Care home resident died after lift shaft fall

CARE HOME TRAGEDY: Elizabeth Young

IN COURT: Paul Thompson

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Derwentside & Tyneside)

A PENSIONER with Alzheimer's died after she plunged down a lift shaft when the door was left unsecured, a court heard yesterday.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how the frail 92-year-old stepped into the empty shaft because the lift was out-of-order and could not move.

County Durham company Derwent Lift Services, based on Greencroft Industrial Estate, in Annfield Plain, pleaded not guilty to three counts of failing to discharge  its statutory duty between October 8, 1993, and September 23, 2010, as well as failing to conduct a suitable and safe risk assessment on or around September 18, 2010.

Engineer Paul Thompson, 61, of Hayleazes Road, Denton Burn, Newcastle, pleaded not guilty to one charge of failing to discharge statutory duty on or around September 18, 2010.

The jury heard how pensioner Elizabeth Young fell to her death at a care home in Whitley Bay two years ago.

Mrs Young, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and walked with a frame, was found dead two days after Mr Thompson visited on behalf of the company.

Susan Hirst, prosecuting at Newcastle Crown Court, said staff members searched the second floor of Heathdale Rest Home when they realised Mrs Young was not in her room.

Miss Hirst: “Susan Crosland noticed the lift door did not appear to be closed and was resting on the lock. She pulled the door and was shocked to discover it was not locked.

“When she looked down the lift shaft she saw that Mrs Young was lying, face down, on the top of the lift.

“It was apparent that she had opened the door on the second floor and fallen down the lift shaft.”

The emergency services were called and the fire service and paramedics reached Mrs Young, who had landed on top of the lift, which was between the first floor and ground floor.

Miss Hirst said: “Mrs Young was examined, but, sadly, there were no signs of life.

“Following a post mortem, it was established that Elizabeth Young had died as a result of injuries she sustained in that fall.”

The jury was told that Mr Thompson, who had worked for Derwent Lift Services for 19 years, visited the home on September 18, 2010.

He removed a mechanical part which had burnt out and could not be replaced until the following week.

Staff were told the lift was ‘out of order’ and arrangements should be made to take residents up to their rooms using the stairs.

Miss Hirst said: “It is self evident that any properly maintained lift in any premises, particularly a residential home such as this, should be maintained or secured in such a way that the occupiers of the premises, be they residents, staff or visitors, should not be exposed to the risk of falling down the lift shaft with the obvious consequences that would be likely to follow.

“The maintenance of such a lift in a safe condition would, the prosecution submit, be an essential part of the task of any lift maintenance company and its service engineers who had undertaken the responsibility of ensuring that the lifts were properly serviced and maintained.”

The case continues today.

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