Norfolk coach founder’s death was accidental, inquest hears

The death of a Norfolk coach company founder, who was crushed by one of his own vehicles could have been avoided, an inquest has heard.

Richard Morant, who started Richards Coaches, based in Guist, near Dereham, died at the company's Norwich Road depot following an accident on June 4.

A jury inquest, held yesterday at the Assembly House, in Norwich, heard that Mr Richards, 46, was trying to replace one of the levelling sensors, which helps adjust the height of the vehicle, at the front of the coach when it lowered on to him.

A report by a pathologist at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital revealed that the cause of death was asphyxiation as a result of compression of the chest, due to being crushed by the vehicle.

Oliver Bamforth, a trainee mechanic at Richards Coaches, told the inquest he had been working at the yard with Mr Morant on the day of the accident.

The inquest heard that Mr Morant drove the coach on to wedges to work on it before later bringing it back down to work under it. Mr Bamforth said Mr Morant asked him to make a cup of tea, but that when he returned he could not see his boss.

He went off to find him, but could not, and returned to the coach, which still had the engine running. When he looked underneath, he saw Mr Morant.

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Malcolm Crowther, a Norwich-based inspector for the Health and Safety Executive, said the 13.5 tonne coach Mr Morant had been working on had sensors at the front and rear which could be raised and lowered and were controlled by a lever in the cab.

He said: 'It's most likely that the coach has been lowered off the jack before he went back underneath. The lever on the sensor had either dropped or was knocked down and this caused the air suspension to lower the coach on to him. 'It's very dangerous to go underneath any vehicle while it's not safely supported and this tragic accident could have been avoided had a safe method of work been used. Mr Morant could have worked under his own inspection pit, which he had in the workshop and that would have been safe.'

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.