Life-long friend tried in vain to save life of pensioner, 80, who fell off ladder

Norwich coroners court

Norwich coroners court - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

A childhood friend of 80-year-old Bill Buckenham has described the moment he broke two ribs trying to save the life of the retired decorator as he fell from a ladder in Wymondham.

Ken Darkins told Norfolk Coroner's Court how his neighbour toppled 'in slow motion' from 20 feet up a tree on Browick Road on October 8 without making a sound.

'It was very strange,' he said. 'He wasn't grabbing hold of the ladder, which is what you would expect someone to do. He just kept coming backwards.'

Another neighbour James Mullins described how Mr Darkins was hurled six feet across the garden as he tried to catch his friend in mid air.

'I immediately thought I should try to catch him,' added Mr Darkins. 'As he drew closer I leaned back to try to cushion his fall and grab his shoulders, but he landed head-first onto my body, hitting my rib cage.

'I shouted to my wife to call an ambulance and the neighbours came out to help. I didn't notice until that point I was injured in the fall. I had a pain in my ribs and was struggling to breathe.

'I have known Bill since childhood and he was the best man at my wedding. We had lived next door to each other for more than 40 years.'

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Mr Mullins added: 'Bill was very active; he was always in his garden and would help to do other people's. We are all quite close friends and neighbours.'

Mr Buckenham was taken to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge but showed no improvement after seven days, when the decision was made to withdraw care.

Senior coroner for Norfolk Jacqueline Lake recorded a verdict of accidental death caused by traumatic brain injury.

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