Home Industry and Commerce Industrial Deaths Barnburgh Fatality – ‘Difficult to Understand What Could Have Happened’

Barnburgh Fatality – ‘Difficult to Understand What Could Have Happened’

August 1959

South Yorkshire Times August 22, 1959

Barnburgh Fatality

‘Difficult to Understand What Could Have Happened’

At a Mexborongh inquest on Friday the jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death” on fitter and pumpman, 61 years old Alfred Gibson, who was injured at Barnburgh Main Colliery on Tuesday and later died in hospital.

Cyril James Lawrence of 45 St John’s Road Swinton, Deputy, said he gave instructions to Gibson to wait for him at the bottom of the No. 1 Staple Shaft, while he (Lawrence) went on his rounds and found another fitter to help Gibson repair a pump.

“I told him to tell Jackson to ask Massey to lower the ‘chair’ ready for me coming back. I told him to wait at the bottom until I came back. I did not expect him to do the job until I got back, He had orders not to do anything until I got back,”

Questioning Lawrence the Coroner said, “If he knew his job, would you expect him to stand about and wait for you returning’?” “I would not expect him to ignore my orders; he has never done that previously.”

Was Conscious

Lawrence said he was in the loco shed when Jackson came to tell him of the accident. When I got to the scene of the accident Gibson was conscious and I asked him what he had been doing. He answered that he didn’t know. I then sent for help.” He added that he couldn’t understand an experienced man doing what he did. “He was a competent man and a good worker.”

Mr, Herbert Swift, N.U.M. branch Secretary at Barnburgh Colliery, suggested that the system of signalling was not good enough and he questioned Mr. Lawrence on this point. As the Staple Shaft was used very infrequently, Lawrence  said he felt satisfied. It was pointed out that the requirements for signalling in a Staple Shaft were the  standard as laid down by the I Mining and Quarries regulations. I

Mr. Swift disagreed with this, saying, “It is a matter of opinion.” He suggested that the system of signalling used in this case — by telephone to the engine driver —was not adequate. He felt that if men were to use the shaft, however infrequently, there was a definite need for an onsetter.

Reflection of His Light

Staple Attendant William Jackson, 67. Washington Road, Goldthorpe, a loader attendant at No. 1 ` Staple Shaft said that the shaft was used very infrequently. “When Gibson asked for the “chair’ I notified the engine driver by ‘phone to send down the chair. Gibson went up the ladder on to the platform. I couldn’t see him on the platform but I could see the reflection of Gibson’s light. I heard the ‘chair’ coming down the shaft and as it almost reached the shaft bottom I heard a groan. I went up the ladder and found Gibson under the ‘chair’ on his knees, at the right hand side of the ‘chair’ facing the -gates.”

“The ‘chair’ wasn’t on the bottom, but seemed to be resting on his back. It was about a foot from  the platform. The shaft gates were open.”

Gibson didn’t speak, Jackson told the Coroner, adding “So I shouted to the driver and he responded by raising the ‘chair’.”

In answer to a question by the Coroner. Jackson said he didn’t regard it as unusual for him (Gibson) to want to use the “chair.”

He was an old hand. I have never known him to use the ‘chair’ on his own before. I would not expect a man if his experience to stand under the cage, He knew what the gates were for,” he added.

Could Hear The “Chair”

Jackson said he could hear the’ `’chair” working, in answer to a question as to whether he thought !Gibson might have been looking around — “Therefore he wouldn’t have been looking around.” Witness added that the people who usually used the cage were officials.

Harry Massey, winding engine-man, of 13, School Street. Darfield, said he was on duty on Tuesday morning when Jackson telephoned for him to lower the “chair.” “On road the way down the ‘chair’ went the normal speed — 8 to 10 m.p.h.- to about seven feet from the bottom. It then slowed it up to two m.p.h. and when I got to about ‘three feet from the bottom I felt the pressure come off the brake. I instantly stood on the brake and knocked off the power. The ‘chair’ came to rest a matter of 11 to 12 inches from its normal landing.”

Massey said he knew something was wrong by the pressure going off his brake. “The next thing I heard was Jackson shouting to him I to lift the ‘chair.”‘ Witness said he felt that the system of signalling in the staple shaft was satisfactory.

Dr. K. Finney, pathologist, said cause of death was “shock and blood loss.” Dr. Finney said it appeared Gibson had been kneeling on one knee and there was nothing to suggest he had collapsed.

The Coroner said it was difficult to understand what could have happened.

“I have had a long experience in holding inquests on pit fatalities. No-one is keener than I to prevent accidents happening and no one has done more than I with regard to safety precautions.”

Mr. Carlile said, “One could hardly expect any more care to be taken than is taken in this Staple Shaft.” He added, “It is almost unbelievable, in my mind. that a man such as the deceased, with all his years of experience, should go and open the gate (if we believe the evidence of the deputy that he closed the gate) and to walk in when he knew he had asked for the ‘chair’ to be brought down. To my mind that is the whole situation. It is quite clear legally that he was in the wrong and it seems to me that to put an Onsetter there for the whole shift only to work on one or two occasions, is pressing the question too far. The present facilities are quite ample for dealing with the situation. I suggest that on the evidence you (the jury) bring in a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’.”

Messages of sympathy to the widow and family were expressed by representatives of the N.C.B. (Mr. C. Blenkinsop), Mr. Swift on. behalf of the N.U.M. and Mr. J. Golding on behalf of N.A.C.O.D.S. and by Mr, Carlile.

The Funeral

The funeral took place at Thurnscoe Cemetery on Saturday. The mourners were: Mrs. A. Gibson (widow), Mr. and Mrs. A. Gibson and Susan, Mr, and Mrs. D. Gibson, Mr. and Mrs. T. Amos, Mrs. J. Moulton, Mr. and Mrs. W. Moulton, Ivy and Ray, Sylvia and Charlie. George and Jim Lees. Mrs. R. Moulton, Mr. H. Moulton, Renee and Lizzie Sheldon,  Mr. and Mrs. E. Lee, Mr. and Mrs. G. F. Inman, Mr. and Mrs. A. Ingman, Mr. and Mrs. F. Jones, Mr. and Mrs. F. Gascoyne. Mr. and Mrs. F. Jones, Mr. R. Race, Lilian and Frank Woods, Mrs. Trickett, Mr. Powell, neighbours from Thurnscoe. Workmates of Barnburgh Colliery, members of the British Legion and. R.A.O.B. and N.U.M. officials of Barnburgh Colliery.