Instructor tells of dock tragedy

PUBLISHED: 16:21 23 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:21 03 March 2010

A PORT of Felixstowe staff instructor has given an emotional account of the moment he saw a trainee lean out of the cage of a crane and be hit by a container.

Ipswich father-of-three Kevin Cuckow died after the tragedy on October 11 last year.

A PORT of Felixstowe staff instructor today emotionally told of the moment he saw a trainee lean out of the cage of a crane and be hit by a container.

Ipswich father-of-three Kevin Cuckow died after the tragedy on October 11 last year.

The 32-year-old, of Dover Road, Ipswich, had worked at the port for just two weeks and a day.

The inquest at Ipswich Crown Court heard that he was hit on the back of the head and suffered a fractured skull.

He was taken to Ipswich Hospital and placed in the intensive care ward but died later that day.

David Emsden described how he took three trainees and a crane co-ordinator up in a 40ft-cage to fit locking devices into the top of containers which were on board a ship.

He said the crane crept along and after working with Mr Cuckow for some time and establishing he was fine, Mr Emsden walked to the other end of the cage to check the othertwo trainees.

He said there was no problem with the weather conditions, althoughpeople had said it had been too windy to work safely, after the incident.

Mr Emsden said: "When I looked round I saw Kevin with his head out. I shouted at him 'Kevin, get your head in.' There was no response, I dashed down to the other end."

Mr Emsden struggled for words as he told the jury of the scene.

He said: "He was trapped. I couldn't get him out. I asked the crane driver to move away and he did. I pulled Kevin into the frame and said, get us to shore, call an ambulance. I stayed with him until the ambulance came. He was breathing but he didn't react."

He said Mr Cuckow did not regain consciousness and said he could see no reason why he had leaned outof the cage.

He said the dangers of working in such a cage had been emphasised during Mr Cuckow's training. He said: "It's not a normal environment – everything is hard solid steel. Things weigh tonnes and not pounds. You don't jam a finger at the Port of Felixstowe, you cut it off. You've got to be aware of everything going on around you because it is a dangerous environment."

He said Mr Cuckow was "a brilliant person'' who had given him a lift to work that day when his car

broke down.

The inquest heard from the two other trainees who said safety had been stressed during training, but both saw Mr Cuckow leaning out.

Crane co-ordinator Phillip Flynn said Mr Cuckow was kneeling at the time of the accident, but had his left arm and head out of the cage.

Crane driver Peter Bowledge said the winds were within operating conditions, but gusting up to 42 miles per hour. Work stopped at 46mph. He said: "There was a bit more swingthan usual."

He added that other cranes at the site had their orange warning lights on which showed winds of up to 40mph.

At the opening of the hearing coroner Dr Peter Dean and a jury heard how conditions at the port had been windy on the day the berth operator died.

Sergeant Carl Fisher, who attended the scene, said he was advised not to go on board the ship to investigate because conditions were too windy.

During today's proceedings Mr Cuckow's widow, Lorraine, said that her husband had seemed in good spirits on the day he went to work.

The inquest continues.

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