A DEVOTED husband who overcame cancer suffered fatal head injuries after leaning out of a forklift truck, an inquest heard.

Father-of-one Michael Iain Johnson died early into his nightshift at a pet food plant on August 27, last year.

The 44-year-old had apparently leaned out of the vehicle’s safety cage to check whether a large metal hopper needed emptying, an inquest jury was told.

Colleagues found him trapped between the forklift and the hopper at Wagg Foods at Dalton Airfield Industrial Estate, Topcliffe, near Thirsk, North Yorkshire.

Members of the jury were shown DVD footage of the accident, from the factory’s CCTV system, before coming into court.

Deputy coroner John Broadbridge read a statement to the Northallerton inquest made by Mr Johnson’s widow, Rebecca.

It read: “We had been happily married, there were no problems between us. He was a wonderful father.

“Michael was a down-toearth guy, who would go with the flow.”

He had battled health problems in the past, the inquest was told, having undergone a mastectomy after being diagnosed with cancer in 2003.

Mr Johnson, of Front Street, Topcliffe, was a former publican, having managed pubs in North Yorkshire for many years, before changing to a career with more regular hours.

Shift leader Peter Phillips, who went to Mr Johnson’s aid after the accident, said: “I saw Mike trapped between the side of the hopper and the side of the forklift.

“An ambulance was called and we tried to move the truck.”

Mr Phillips told the jury that forklift truck drivers were trained not to move outside the safety cage while the machine was moving.

Paramedics were unable to save Mr Johnson. The jury was told that a post-mortem examination found he had died from head injuries.

A verdict of accidental death was recorded.

A spokesman for Wagg Foods said: “The loss of an employee in tragic circumstances is one of the most difficult and challenging times for any company.

“We are all extremely saddened by Michael Johnson’s death and he is sorely missed.

“This verdict hopefully represents another step towards closure in respect of the accident for everyone involved.

“Meanwhile, our thoughts and deepest sympathies remain with and go out to his family and close friends.”