'Lessons to be learnt following traction engine tragedy' - coroner (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Karl Doran, from Darlington, died in an accident at Beamish Museum, in July last year
A CORONER has called for lessons to be learnt following the death of a seven-year-old boy in a tragic traction engine accident.
Steam enthusiast Karl Doran, from Darlington, died after falling beneath a 1.5-tonne trailer at Beamish Museum, in County Durham, in July last year.
An inquest at Crook Civic Centre heard on Monday (December 2) that Karl was riding on the tow bar connecting the vintage traction engine, being driven by his dad, Phillip, and the trailer.
The youngster, described by his family as their ‘little prince of steam’, and his father were volunteering at the open-air museum when the accident happened.
Detective Chief Inspector Victoria Fuller, who led the police investigation, told the hearing that Karl and his father arrived at Beamish at about 8am on the morning of July 22 last year.
They spent the morning carrying out maintenance work on the traction engine and helping other volunteers before setting off on a circuit of the 300-acre site after lunch.
She said Karl had been seen sitting on the tow bar by members of the public and that his father had asked him to sit with him in the engine after he started dragging his feet along the ground.
The accident happened on a stretch of tarmac with no pedestrian access.
Det Ch Insp Fuller said: “Mr Doran became aware of the trailer rocking and realised that Karl was no longer on the engine.
“He noticed Karl lying 15 to 20 feet behind the trailer on the road. He was not responsive and there were no signs of life.”
Det Ch Insp Fuller showed the jury stills and video of the steamroller in the moments leading up to the accident.
It was travelling no faster than five or six miles an hour at the time, the inquest was told.
A post-mortem examination found he had suffered severe crush injuries to the head.
Coroner Andrew Tweddle directed the jury to return a verdict of accidental death and said he will write to both the museum and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Mr Tweddle described the case as "very simple but incredibly tragic".
He said: “No one, particularly Karl’s dad, would have expected things to turn out in the way that they did that day.
“I hope there will be lessons learned which will reduce similar fatalities in the future.”
The HSE and Durham Police launched a joint investigation following the tragedy, which unfolded on a busy summer’s day at the museum.
Although the police investigation was completed several months ago, the HSE strand of the inquiry remains ongoing.
The inquest was told that although the museum had a risk assessment for the use of traction engines in place, it did not include guidance for towing trailers and the carrying of passengers and children.
Victoria Wise, from the HSE, said guidance from the National Traction Engine Trust, a charitable organisation, was also available to enthusiasts.
She said riding on a tow bar was dangerous, adding that the HSE would not advocate anyone riding on one.
She said: “Riding on the bar puts you between two pieces of moving machinery and it’s not designed to carry passengers.”
Following Karl’s death, the HSE issued Beamish with an improvement notice, which it has complied with.
Beamish director Richard Evans said the safety of visitors was the museum’s top priority.
He added that the aim was to exceed existing standards and be an example of best practice.
In a statement, the museum reiterated its heartfelt sympathy to Karl’s family.
Six representatives of Karl’s family attended the inquest, although his parents were not present.
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