‘Careful’ ex-RAF man from Stalham died from brain injury after routine trip to Worstead recycling centre, inquest hears

A routine trip to a north Norfolk dump ended in tragedy for a 'careful and conscientious' retired RAF serviceman when he fell, hit his head and died two days later in hospital.

John Buckle was found, seriously injured, lying on his back at the foot of steps leading to two waste skips at the Worstead recycling centre, near North Walsham, an inquest in Norwich heard this morning.

As a result of the March 8 accident, May Gurney, which operates the tip on behalf of Norfolk County Council, has changed its rules to staff.

An inquest jury on Wednesday returned a verdict of accidental death on Mr Buckle, 77, of Rivermead, Stalham, after hearing that he was in apparent good health, nobody had seen him fall, the weather was fine and dry, and all required safety checks had been carried out.

His wife Adelinde told the coroner's court that her husband had dropped her to walk their dog along the Weavers' Way while he went to dispose of a dismantled bird table and towel rail which he had expected would take him no more than 10 minutes.

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Mr Buckle, a retired RAF warrant officer, was seen arriving at the centre at about 9.30am by Phillip Green and Dan Hicks, two of the three members of recycling staff working that day.

They both remembered that he had looked mobile and able to cope alone. Both men said it was their custom to offer help where needed.

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While Mr Green nipped to the toilet, Mr Hicks made tea for a visiting contractor in the site office where the third member of staff, Paul Ellis, was filling in paperwork.

The inquest heard that the office had a clear view of the site. When staff noticed that Mr Buckle had fallen, they rushed to help. But he was already unconscious and was airlifted to Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, where he died from a traumatic brain injury as a result of the fall.

Gary Fox, former safety manager with May Gurney, investigated and found that all safety training and checks for hazards had been carried out.

Speaking afterwards, Gerry Duffy, safety director with May Gurney, expressed sympathy for the Buckle family and said as an extra customer-care measure they now required a staff member to be outside whenever customers were present.

Norfolk coroner William Armstrong said no-one would ever know what had caused Mr Buckle, a loving and caring father and grandfather, to fall. He added: 'It is a great tragedy that the life of a man so careful, considerate and conscientious should have come to an end in such circumstances.'

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