Safety light ‘covered with cardboard’ before Spalding farmer’s tragic death, inquest is told

Robin Chappell.  (Photo supplied). ANL-140428-093642001
Robin Chappell. (Photo supplied). ANL-140428-093642001

A Spalding farmer who tragically died after becoming trapped in machinery used by potato workers may have inadvertently deactivated its safety mechanism, an inquest has heard today.

Robin Henry Chappell (71) died at his family’s farm off Cowbit Road, Spalding, after suffering neck and head injuries when the lid of a machine called a tong control flow box tipper closed while he was inside trying to “clear out spillage”.

South Lincolnshire senior coroner Prof Robert Forrest.

South Lincolnshire senior coroner Prof Robert Forrest.

Five members of Mr Chappell’s family were at the opening session of a two-day inquest in Boston earlier today, including his son and brother, both named David Chappell who both gave evidence concerning the day of Mr Chappell’s death.

The inquest was reopened by south Lincolnshire senior coroner Professor Robert Forrest almost two years after it was first opened and adjourned on April 29, 2014, six days after Mr Chappell was pronounced dead by paramedics at the farm in Spalding.

Evidence was given before a jury of 11 men and women by retired Spalding detective David Parrish who revealed that on the day of the fatal accident, Mr Chappell had been found “trapped by his neck in the lid of box tipping machine”.

Mr Parrish added that the Chappells had a contract with oven chip producers McCain Foods and in order to speed up the grading of potatoes that would be eventually sent to the firm, the brothers invested in a tong control flow box tipper previously used successfully at a farm in Kent.

I walked around a lorry that was in front of me and saw my dad trapped in the machine

David Chappell Junior, son of the late Robin Chappell

“There is no evidence to suggest that any adjustment was made to the machine purchased by the Chappell family,” Mr Parrish said.

But in order to use the machine with the crates, measuring 4ft 6in, which were at tne farm, an idea was acted on to cover one of two light sensors which automatically switches off the machine in case of emergency with a cardboard box.

While giving evidence, Mr Chappell Junior said he was sorting potatoes onto a conveyor belt while his father was driving a fork lift truck which carried crates of potatoes towards the box tipper to be hoisted and tipped into the machine.

Mr Chappell Junior added: “At some point, (one of the workers) shouted out ‘go and check on your dad because he hasn’t moved for a while’.

“I walked around a lorry that was in front of me and saw my dad trapped in the machine.

“I think he must have gone into the machine to clear some potatoes that had spilled out, then stood up and triggered the (light) sensor with his leg which shut the lid”.

The inquest continues.