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Freethorpe agricultural worker Peter Fisher died after being crushed by straw bales weighing almost two tons, inquest hears

PUBLISHED: 18:30 04 July 2017 | UPDATED: 18:30 04 July 2017

Norfolk Coroner's Court in Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley

Norfolk Coroner's Court in Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley

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A well-respected and hard-working agricultural worker died after being crushed by heavy straw bales, an inquest has heard.

Peter Fisher, 54, from Chapelfield in Freethorpe, was found dead under three bales each weighing 600KG at High House Farm in Cranworth, near Thetford, on February 11 at around 8.30am.

The inquest into the industrial accident was held at Norwich Coroner’s Court today in front of a jury of 10, led by assistant coroner for Norfolk Johanna Thompson.

She said no suspicious circumstances were found at the scene.

The jury concluded that Mr Fisher died as a result of an accident between 5.19am and 8.20am.

They said he was fatally injured by falling bales of straw as they were being prepared for unloading from a lorry.

Mr Fisher, a married father of three and grandfather of one, was a self-employed driver and had been working for C & M Haulage, based on the Cranworth farm, when he died.

He had worked for the firm for nine months before his death but had been in the haulage industry for the past 20 years and was a “workaholic”.

Samantha Cole, who lives on the farm, first discovered Mr Fisher close to his lorry where he was loading straw bales destined for Snetterton power station that day.

Giving evidence, Mrs Cole said: “I thought it was strange I couldn’t hear or see Peter anywhere. I then saw the straw bales everywhere. I ran over because I had a horrible feeling. I could then see Peter underneath the straw. I ran to the house to get my husband and called 999.”

Jonathan Cole, joint owner of the haulage firm, told the inquest: “My wife came over and said, ‘You have to get over here otherwise we will lose Peter.’ I was confronted with Peter underneath the straw.

“I went up to Peter and shouted to him. From the way he was sitting, I had to get the straw off him.”

He said the oblong bales, eight foot by four foot square, had “concertinaed” off the lorry.

He used a nearby JCB teleporter to remove the bales.

Mr Cole added: “Peter knew the trade inside out. He was more than competent to do the job. Peter was in charge of loading his lorry. He was precise. He would not do anything to put himself at risk.”

The inquest heard how Mr Fisher planned his own working day and regularly started early so he could be the first delivery truck at the power station at 7am.

Anthony Brookes, an inspector for the Health and Safety Executive which looked into the accident, told the hearing it appeared Mr Fisher’s lorry could have become stuck in softer ground on the morning of the accident.

Witnesses said the lorry, which had 18 bales of straw on it when Mr Fisher’s body was discovered, was leaning to one side.

Evidence suggested Mr Fisher removed the straps from the bales on the back of the lorry that morning when it was muddy.

Mr Brookes added: “Mr Fisher was known to be an experienced, hard-working contractor.”

He said the driver arrived at the farm by 3.30am on February 11 and he would have moved straw bales onto the lorry with a teleporter.

The inspector added evidence suggested the bales could have fallen just after 5am when it was dark.

Jury members heard Mr Fisher had a headtorch on that morning but had access to extra lighting on his vehicles provided by C & M Haulage.

Mrs Thompson said a post mortem revealed Mr Fisher’s cause of death was compressive asphyxia due to compression of the chest and body by bales and straw.

A JustGiving online fundraising page was set up in memory of Mr Fisher which raised just over £1,000 for the Farm Safety Foundation Yellow Wellies.

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