Coroner rules engineer who fell down lift shaft in Warwick died due to misadventure

James Merritt. NNL-170724-150910005
James Merritt. NNL-170724-150910005

A jury has ruled that an award-winning health and safety expert, who died when he fell 30ft down a lift shaft he was inspecting in Warwick, died due to misadventure.

The verdict has been given within the last couple of hours.

James Merritt, 39, who was from Hampton Magna, tumbled down the empty shaft of a passenger lift while working at a three-storey building.

The inquest into Mr Merritt’s death has been taking place this week at the Warwickshire Justice Centre in Leamington.

The dad-of-two was inspecting three lifts, two passenger and one freight, at Telent Technologies Services in Warwick when he died on October 11 last year.

Rescue teams dashed to the industrial park in Warwick but Mr Merritt - who won a national Health and Safety award in 2014 - was pronounced dead at the scene.

An inquest heard Mr Merritt had suffered major head injuries.

Delroy Henry, assistant coroner for Warwickshire, said: “He arrived a little after 8am to begin his work - he interacted with a maintenance worker.

“He unfortunately was discovered at the bottom of the lift pit where the passenger doors operate just before 1.30pm. He suffered major trauma to his head and later died at the scene.”

Health and safety director at Telent Technologies Services Anmarie Landi told the inquest: “I could see the actual lift was positioned, I believe, on the first floor above.

“He was alive and moaning and I realised immediately he had suffered a serious head injury as there was blood on the ground around his head 
area.”

The inquest heard Mr Merritt was one of the most highly qualified safety experts at Zurich Engineering, who employed him to carry out risk assessments on businesses.

Dominic Dawson, chief engineer for Zurich Engineering, said: “We carry out examinations of lifting equipment, pressure systems, all kinds of equipment and statutory examinations so people understand their equipment is safe - our examinations are legal requirements.

“James commenced his employment in June 2016, he worked in a similar role as an engineer surveyor before.

“He had a Higher National Diploma in Mechanical Engineering, he was part of the Engineering Council, he was an Incorporated Engineer. This is a very experienced engineer level.

“He had been an engineer for over 20 years - ten as a surveyor. In 2014 James was fortunate to receive an award.”

Describing the training Mr Merritt undertook to reach his position, Mr Dawson added: “He would take certain health and safety exams over that period of time.

“He got 92 per cent on his final exam, which is very, very high - figures are usually around the 80 per cent mark. His job could include working in confined spaces and heights.”

Gary Gray, a maintenance worker at Telent Technologies Services, told the inquest of the moment he found Mr Merritt at the bottom of the lift shaft.

He said: “I thought there was a fault with the goods lift because the barrier and signs were still up over the buttons - I couldn’t see into the lift shaft.

“I went to find him, I checked the two plant rooms upstairs and found no trace of him. I went to the goods lift, banged on the door and shouted but got no response.

“I was determined to find him at that point and went downstairs to the ground floor - I banged on the door of the goods lift again but there was no response.

“I found the key and went back to the goods lift. I opened the door and found Mr Merritt lying on the floor in the shaft.

“I went down into the pit - he was facing towards the wall with blood all around him, he was making noises.

“He was bleeding out of the nose - I stepped over him and tried to comfort him, I wasn’t trained in first aid but I had done a basic first aid.”

In a written statement, Mr Canciani, a technical service manager at the firm, said: “I had a 1pm meeting, at 1.24pm I received a call from Gary who told me they had found an engineer lying in the floor with a major problem.

“Gary sounded emotional, he said we needed to telephone an ambulance.

“I went downstairs to the ground floor using the stairs.

“I saw Gary standing on the ground floor outside the lift shaft - the doors were fully open. The lift was not there and I could see directly in - I looked and saw the engineer lying on the floor.

“There was a pool of blood under his head and he was bleeding erratically.”

On Friday, July 28 the jury concluded that James Merritt died as a result of misadventure.

This means that Mr Merritt’s death was a result of an accident that occurred because of a risk that was taken voluntarily.

James’ family and his wife Kimberley, attended the inquest during the week.