A Cambridgeshire mother who grabbed an automatic garage door as it opened was pulled into the mechanism and died after its motion detectors didn't work properly, an inquest heard today, Tuesday October 23.
Heidi Chalkley, 40, sustained multiple fatal injuries after she became entangled in the roller shutters at the entrance to an underground car park.
Her friend Susan Gilmore watched in horror as the social worker rose three feet from the floor, before blood started coming from her mouth.
A post-mortem examination later found she had suffered fractures to her lower jaw, ribs, spine and arms.
At an inquest in Huntingdon, today, a jury concluded that Ms Chalkley died due to misadventure.
But jurors added that "two high-presence laser detectors" intended to stop the gate when a person or object was detected approaching the mechanism were not configured correctly.
The jury concluded that the motion lasers "were actually configured in such a way that they did not in fact stop the continued operation of the shutter".
It added: "As a consequence, Ms Chalkley was drawn into the shutter mechanism, sustaining fatal multiple injuries."
Assistant coroner Sean Horstead said: “It has been a long journey for the family and very good friends of Heidi to get to this point."
He thanked them, describing Ms Chalkley as a "delightful person".
Paul Arnold, a specialist electrical inspector at the Health and Safety Executive, tested “presence detection” laser devices at the top of the automatic door after Ms Chalkley's death.
Mr Arnold told jurors that - if the detectors had been configured differently - it “would have been unlikely that Ms Chalkley would have sustained fatal injuries”.
He added: “Any obstruction of a higher-level detector should have stopped the gate until that obstruction was removed.”
Yesterday, the inquest heard how the friends and former colleagues had driven to Ms Gilmore's home in Ruth Bagnall Court in Cambridge at around 7.15pm on August 14, 2016.
Ms Gilmore told police she dropped off her car in the underground car park as the pair were going out for a drink.
But as they walked back up the car park's ramp, Ms Chalkley ran ahead of her friend and pressed the button to open the door.
Ms Gilmore said: “As it went up Heidi said to me, 'Have you ever held on to it as it goes up?'
“Heidi grabbed hold of the shutters. I thought she was going to let go.
“She started to panic as her hands got caught on the barrier.”
Fellow social worker Ms Gilmore added: “Everything happened so quickly, in a matter of seconds.”
Jurors heard that she called to her friend, “Can you hear me? Talk to me, talk to me”, but got no response.
The jury then heard that Ms Gilmore called 999 from her home and went back to the gate, where a man and two women were standing.
In her statement, she said: “Her head was at an angle. I saw blood coming from her mouth and she wasn't breathing.”
James Spitale, who heard shouting from his back garden, ran out after hearing "something about a head".
In a witness statement, he said: "When I got there I looked at the woman and saw the woman's head was stuck in the shutting mechanism at the top.
"She was hanging around three feet from the floor and there was blood coming from her mouth.
"She was not moving at all. I stood behind her and took hold of her legs.
"I tried my best to do anything I could."
Jurors heard that Mr Spitale was later told by paramedics it was "too late".
Today, Mr Horstead described “the swift action taken by him in the most trying and troubling of circumstances” as “commendable”.