Father’s electrocution: ‘an accident’ inquest decides

Alfred Shaun Matthews was electrocuted when the grab arm of his lorry came into contact with overhead power lines on July 18, 2015. Photo by Chris Shimwell.
Alfred Shaun Matthews was electrocuted when the grab arm of his lorry came into contact with overhead power lines on July 18, 2015. Photo by Chris Shimwell.

A father who was electrocuted in front of his young son died ‘as a result of an accident’, an inquest concluded today.

Alfie Shaun Matthews, 39, of Priors Leaze Lane, Hambrook, was ‘blown away’ from his truck when the grab arm he was operating touched overhead power cables on July 18 2015, the inquest in Horsham heard.

His son, who was six at the time, was present but not injured in the incident at Pond Farm in East Ashling, where Mr Matthews had been buying hay.

The hydraulic cables of the grab arm came into contact with power lines carrying 11,000 volts as Mr Matthews moved it to make space for the hay, the court heard.

Eyewitness Craig Richardson described a ‘bang’ and a ‘flash of flame’ from the wheels of Mr Matthews’ truck, before seeing him ‘staggering away’ from the vehicle.

On hearing the explosion, witness Pitre Scutt, who was loading hay, rushed to his aid. He told the court: “I spun round, we all spun round and looked with amazement at what going on. I saw him being blown away from the vehicle.”

An ex-retained firefighter, Mr Scutt explained how he dragged Mr Matthews away from the live truck and started CPR while holding him in his arms.

Landowner Dennis Bulbeck told the court he ran to the road to assist the arrival of emergency services.

Resuscitation attempts were continued by paramedics and other medical staff at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, but Mr Matthews did not regain a pulse and was pronounced dead at 11.22am.

Health and Safety Executive inspector Michelle Canning told the court that signage at the site warning visitors about the power lines had been in an ‘incorrect location’.

She added that work place directives also specified that no loading or unloading should occur within 10 metres of power cables, but the power lines were just more than three metres from the barn.

SSE representative Ian Crawley told the court that the cable section had been at a statutory height and had since been moved underground.

Around 30 years ago, Mr Bulbeck said he had approached an electricity company to ask for ‘streamers or something’ to be placed on the wires to make them more visible, but nothing had happened.

The court heard Mr Matthews had collected hay for his horses from Mr Bulbeck in the same truck for the last two years and that he normally moved the bucket attachment to make space for the hay.

On that particular day, the type of hay he was collecting was located down the end of the barn closest to the overhead power lines.

The jury came to a narrative conclusion, whereby Mr Matthews died as a result of an accident.

Earlier, the coroner had told the jury that an accident was defined as the unintended consequences of a deliberate act.

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