THE family of a North-East man who died when he was trapped by heavy machinery are calling on his employers to introduce measures to prevent similar tragedies.

Paul Clark’s family spoke yesterday after hearing he may have survived last year’s accident at ThyssenKrupp Tallent, Aycliffe Business Park, County Durham, if he had been rescued sooner.

The inquest heard how the 52-year-old was working alone below ground as he tried to unjam a transport carriage that feeds a 20-year-old press at the car parts manufacturer.

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Robert Marr, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector, told the inquest jury that the job put Mr Clark in a “hazard zone” and likened it to fixing the points on a train track from inside the line.

Mr Clark removed pneumatic hoses from one side of the carriage but, with hoses still attached to the other side, and air in the system, it was only a machine fault holding the pressure back.

Mr Marr said it was impossible to tell if the machine had “simply overcome the resistance”

caused by a bent piston rod or the accident was a result of something Mr Clark did.

He said he was surprised that valves which regulated pistons on each side of the carriage were wired the wrong way round, which could have confused the engineer and led to the tragedy.

The inquest at Chester-le- Street Magistrates’ Court was told that the valves have since been relocated, but Mr Marr accepted Mr Clark could only have worked on the hoses from the position he was found.

Denis Tulip, a first-aider at ThyssenKrupp, went to help Mr Clark after the alarm had been raised at about 5.20pm, on Wednesday, July 8, last year, but it was unclear how long he had been trapped.

“I called out ‘Paul help is on its way’ at that point he raised his head, but he didn’t say anything,” said Mr Tulip. “I had my hand on his back, I could still feel him breathing although it was shallow.”

Mr Tulip said Mr Clark stopped breathing three minutes later, by which time paramedics and firefighters had arrived. He was freed minutes later when a crane was used to pull the carriage away.

Pathologist Tony Senadhira said the cause of death was traumatic asphyxia, but Mr Clark’s vital organs were not damaged and he had only broken a few ribs. He estimated Mr Clark would have had about four to five minutes after becoming trapped.

Dr Senadhira said: “If he had been extricated earlier it is possible that Mr Clark would have survived.”

The jury found Mr Clark’s death was an accident at work.

After the hearing, the family’s solicitor, Andrew McDonald, said: “The family hope that the lessons that should be learned from this tragedy have been and that a system to deal with critical incidents has or will be introduced to improve the speed and efficiency in the management of any future incidents.”

Paying tribute to the fatherof- two, the family said he was “a tremendous husband, father, brother and uncle”.

Christine Anderson, from ThyssenKrupp’s, said last night: “Paul was a very valued long serving employee and we will continue to provide whatever support we can to his family, friends and colleagues.

“The HSE investigation into the circumstances of Mr Clark’s death is ongoing.”