AN electrician working at one of the region’s most famous engineering firms died after falling through an inspection hatch and landing on a pile of metal girders, an inquest heard.

Keith Poppleton, of Tunstall Road, Stockton, had been working on a 25ft high overhead travelling crane at Cleveland Bridge, Yarm Road, Darlington, on Tuesday, October 25 in 2016, when he suffered the fatal injuries.

The 54-year-old sub-contractor was given CPR before he was taken to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

County Durham and Darlington Coroner’s Court, heard that there was no direct eye-witnesses to how Mr Poppleton came to fall through the inspection hatch.

But the jury heard how a metal grid on a walkway at the top of the crane flipped round and the unsuspecting electrician fell through the gap.

The hearing was told how the metal walkway did not require regular safety checks but there had been some recent maintenance carried out – including some welding and a new light fixture attached to the crane.

Steve Wright, Cleveland Bridge’s head of health and safety at the time, told the jury that there was no record of when a welding repair was carried out on the crane.

He also told the inquest that there had been no concerns raised by any other members of staff about the safety of the access panels along the walkway.

Mr Wright also confirmed that Mr Poppleton had carried out the company's working at height training and at the time of the incident would not have been expected to be clipped onto any safety wire.

John Trotter, the company’s head of maintenance, told the hearing that he had no recollection of any welding being carried out on the walkway and confirmed there was no scheme in place to check whether the clips holding the panels in place are secure or not.

The court heard that the gantry had been used by another worker on 12 occasions at around the same time as Mr Poppleton had been working on the crane.

Senior assistant coroner Crispin Oliver said: “On this occasion the panel wasn’t secure and it did tilt and he dropped through.”

A post mortem report concluded that Mr Poppleton died from multiple injuries consistent with a fall.

A toxicology report showed that the electrician had no drink or drugs in his system at the time of the incident.

Durham Police carried out an investigation into the death and Detective Constable Darren Garrett confirmed that at this moment in time there was no-one facing any criminal charges in connection with the incident.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation was carried out into the incident and evidence from inspectors will be heard during the hearing, which is listed to last for four days.

  • The hearing continues at Crook civic centre.