Trucker escapes serious injury

A TRUCKER narrowly escaped horrific injury after his lorry was lifted off the ground by an enormous crane in a terrifying incident at Felixstowe port.The Evening Star can today reveal details of the incident during which the driver found his lorry lifted ten feet off the ground after a bolt on one of the twistlocks holding the container on to his trailer failed to work.

A TRUCKER narrowly escaped horrific injury after his lorry was lifted off the ground by an enormous crane in a terrifying incident at Felixstowe port.

The Evening Star can today reveal details of the incident during which the driver found his lorry lifted ten feet off the ground after a bolt on one of the twistlocks holding the container on to his trailer failed to work.

The drama happened just as the High Court in London was hearing about a similar accident.

As port chiefs heard they would be paying around £250,000 compensation to Derek Mayes, who suffered severe brain damage after his lorry was picked up and fell more than 20 feet, another driver was facing the same situation.

In the latest incident it is understood that a bolt which had been undone sprang back into place, which meant that when the rubber-tyred gantry crane lifted the box, it lifted the whole lorry – cab and trailer.

The driver was still inside the cab and could do little as his truck was hauled into the air, dangling with the cab facing toward the ground.

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As he feared it would plummet downwards and smack into the concrete quayside and leave him dead or with serious injuries, his predicament was spotted by workers who alerted the crane driver.

The driver was able to gently lower the lorry back onto the quay, although it still smashed into another container, damaging it, and the weight left the trailer buckled and a write-off.

Port police and a fire crew attended the scene, and also a port safety investigation officer, who is looking into the incident, which happened on Wednesday.

It was the latest in a series of incident in which lorries have been lifted into the air, and in a number of cases drivers have suffered serious injuries.

Brian Robinson, of Cavendish Park, Felixstowe, was awarded £87,829 after his lorry fell ten feet after being lifted by a crane. He suffered a fractured spine.

He was left unable to work after the accident, which again was caused when twistlocks failed to undo correctly.

Mr Mayes, now 65, of Stowmarket, almost died when his lorry was lifted into the air and he fell from a cab window as it slewed on its side. He suffered brain damage and needs constant care and support from his family.

One lorry driver who spoke to the Evening Star said: "I have seen lorries lifted more than 30 feet in the air, hanging by their boxes.

"You just don't know what is inside those containers – it could be three tonnes or 30 tonnes – and whether you are going to come crashing down or not. There have been quite a few near misses.

"I cannot understand why we cannot get out of our cabs like we do at Isle of Grain, Tilbury, Southampton and just about everywhere else."

Felixstowe port takes health and safety very seriously and has invested millions of pounds into safety systems and training. It says it has an excellent safety record for the number of accidents at the terminal, both minor and serious, for the type of working environment and size of the business.

Port corporate affairs manager Paul Davey said internal investigations were held by safety staff into all incidents.

Drivers were told to remain in their cabs during the loading and unloading operations on the quayside.

"The unlocking of twistlocks is the responsibility of the lorry driver and this should be done at the gate," he said.

"They should then remain in the cab. We have discussed this matter at length with the Health and Safety Executive and that is felt to be the safest way of doing things – that is the consensus of opinion among all the expert professionals.

"There would be greater danger for the drivers if they were to get out of their cabs as the drivers of the rubber-tyred gantry cranes, which are heavy pieces of machinery, have a restricted view and cannot see the far side of the wheels."

Other ports did operate different systems. The Isle of Grain has a remote-controlled crane system where vehicles wait in bays and drivers leave the cabs, and other ports also had different procedures.

n Have you witnessed or been involved in an accident at Felixstowe port, or have a compensation claim pending? If so, call Felixstowe Newsdesk on 01394 284109 or e-mail richard.cornwell@eveningstar.co.uk

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