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Mechanic was crushed by 'silent' Calcot IKEA lift

Inquest opens into tragedy involving store's hydraulic lift

Fiona Tomas

Fiona Tomas

fiona.tomas@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886639

IKEA death under investigation

DISTURBING CCTV footage of a mechanic about to be crushed to death by a lift has been shown to an inquest jury.

The tragedy happened at Calcot's IKEA store.

The dramatic film was shown at the opening of an inquest into the death of Joaquin Palacios Fernandez from Seville, Spain.  

Mr Fernandez, a senior mechanic who worked for Spanish lift company Quiver, was killed instantly when the hydraulic lift fell on him at around 2.30am on 19 October, 2016.

A combination of the silent hydraulics, store music and a noisy air conditioning unit nearby suggested the 41-year-old never heard the lift as it descended onto him.

A post-mortem revealed Mr Fernandez died of traumatic asphyxia – caused when a heavy weight presses down on the chest, making breathing impossible.

Giving evidence on the first day of the hearing yesterday (Monday) Mr Fernandez' colleague, Manuel Gomez de Sola, said the pair were changing an emergency brake panel, light switch and electrical socket on the store’s only hydraulic lift.

Mr De Sola had started his shift 45 minutes after Mr Fernandez had that evening, by which time he believed Mr Fernandez had already deactivated the emergency stop button at the base of the shaft.

While on the first floor, Mr De Sola turned to fetch some tools he needed and the doors of the lift closed behind him.

He said he did not hear the “silent” lift descend because it was hydraulic.

Despite the doors of the lift being open on the ground floor – where Mr Fernandez was stationed – the lift was able to descend because Mr Fernandez had put in place a blue-wire ‘bridge’ in the lift’s control box before Mr de Sola had arrived on site.

Mr de Sola then heard a "shout" from Mr Fernandez and realised he had been trapped.

He said: “I opened the lift on the first floor using the emergency key.

“I looked down the lift shaft and could see Joaquin trapped between the lift and the floor.”

A “distressed” Mr de Sola then ran to the control room and tried “desperately to help his friend”, who he had known for nine years.  

Mr de Sola said he battled in vain to manipulate the control box using fuses in an attempt to raise the lift.

The jury was shown footage of the contractor, wearing a fluorescent purple jacket, open the lift’s left door before climbing down into the lift shaft. 

He moved behind the right-hand door of the lift and out of screen for several seconds and it is thought he was carrying out some work, the inquest heard.

Mr Fernandez then moved back into view and remained standing in the left door of the lift shaft, with his head and chest leaning outwards over the threshold of the floor.

Seconds later the lift descends on the contractor, who made no sudden movement, suggesting he did not know what was about to happen.

The inquest heard how Mr Fernandez could have crouched down into a safety cavity below the lift, but was not aware it was falling so did not have time to respond.

A police officer's report said it was “entirely plausible” that Mr Fernandez would not have heard the lift descend.

In addition, the jury was told, music was playing through IKEA’s store speakers and a noisy air conditioning unit was located outside the shaft.

Representatives from MP Lifts – who had sub-contracted another firm, Quiver, to carry out the work – pressed Mr de Sola on what recent formal safety training he and Mr Fernandez had carried out.

Mr de Sola said both of them had attended safety courses and were aware of the dangers working with lifts.

The chamber also heard that two men were late starting the work that evening, because they were waiting for some paperwork from MP Lifts which allowed them to work through the night.

Mr de Sola remarked that Mr Fernandez did not appear tired.

The inquest, expected to conclude tomorrow, continues.

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