Workmates desperately tried to save man crushed to death by rice
A granddad who died when he was crushed under 30 tonnes of rice “loved to work and took great pride in his job” said his devastated family. John Burns, 61, died after the weight of the rice smothered him and caused blunt force injuries to his chest at Garston docks in October 2015. John, who lived in Speke, had exited his vehicle inside a storage shed and had been at the rear of his tipper truck when he was hit by the rear door of the trailer before being buried under the cargo.
: Terror suspect who died in bomb blast outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital named The inquest found chest injuries he received as a result of the accident were enough to have caused his death, but further evidence showed he had suffocated due to the pressure on his chest and the obstruction to his airway. A Home Office pathologist concluded he was likely already dead by the time he was pulled out from under the rice by his workmates.
John’s step daughter, Michelle Meredith, spoke about her docker step-dad who had been with her mum for 26-years, his love for his work, and how he had been deeply affected by his own personal experience of the Hillsborough tragedy years earlier. She told the ECHO : “John was an only child, he was very close to his mum and dad. His dad introduced him to Liverpool football club when he was only three years old and carried him on his shoulders to his first game.
He was passionate about his team. “He was a Hillsborough survivor. He was in touch with the enquiry and gave a statement to them.
“It deeply affected him because he’d had a season ticket up until Hillsborough and then he never went back the match. “He was also a union man, always fought for the underdog. That’s why me and my mum wanted to see this through to the end with HSE [Health and Safety Executive].
Keep up to date with what’s happening in your area by entering your postcode below “I didn’t realise until all this started how dangerous dock work is for all them men down there. The companies need to make it as safe as they can.
I know it won’t bring John back but even if they bring in small changes – which they have.” John was in a relationship with Michelle’s mother for 26-years and became a father figure to her and her sister. He also had four children from a previous relationship and Michelle said he idolised her own son when he was born.
Michelle said her stepdad started working on the docks, following in the footsteps of his own dad, when he was 16-years old. He had always been a driver in some form and loved the camaraderie he shared with his workmates. He also volunteered as a minibus driver for pensioners living in Speke.
Michelle added: “He loved to work, he just loved it and he took great pride in it. “We’ll still never know why John went around the back of his truck. The men who worked alongside John, they spoke at his inquest.
“When you hear the 999 call to say that John’s buried underneath you could hear it in their voice, they’re fighting to save their friend, not a work colleague. It was devastating to hear it.” In a heartfelt tribute to her step-dad, read out at the inquest into his death, Michelle said: “For us as a family, since October 20, 2015, we find it difficult and surreal that this is ‘our John’ that is being spoken about.
Flowers left at the scene where John Burns died after a tragic accident at Garston docks in 2015 (Image: Michelle Meredith)
“To us he was a dearly loved partner of 26-years, a dad, a loving and proud step-dad, and a doting granddad to his grandchildren who miss him so so much.
An ordinary working man who left home that morning, to never ever return back home to his family.” Michelle said she would like her step-dad’s legacy to be the improvement in the safety and work conditions for his colleagues, adding: “John always fought for the underdog. He wanted to make things better that’s why we have followed it for the past six years, to make it better for them men.
“He made things better for his comrades down the docks.”
John Burns (Image: Michelle Meredith)
Associated British Ports Holdings Ltd pleaded guilty to committing multiple health and safety failings and were fined GBP1.8 million as a result of the fatal accident. An investigation by the HSE found the company had failed in their duty to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment or put in place appropriate control measures, including failure to maintain the hold to run actuator, which would have prevented drivers exiting their vehicles and therefore out of the way of the tipping load. An ABP spokesperson said: “We deeply regret the tragic accident back in 2015 which led to the death of Mr Burns.
Our sincerest sympathies remain with his family and friends. “We accepted the failings which were highlighted by the investigations following this incident.” Henrik L.
Pedersen, ABP Chief Executive Officer, said: “Safety is a core value at ABP and making sure our colleagues go home safely every day is a priority to me. “I want everyone involved in this case, Mr Burns’ family, the HSE and the court to know that the business remains committed, since this awful event, towards the goal of ensuring that a similar incident can never occur, and we have made significant progress over the last six years. “I am a firm believer that safety comes first, particularly in our industry.
I want the company I run to be safe and responsible, both towards its workforce and the environment and the local communities in which it operates.”
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