Workman 'asked colleague not to mention Ironbridge Power Station scaffold fall before his death'

The inquest opened into the death of a man after an accident last year at Ironbridge Power Station is expected to last two or three days.

Ironbridge Power Station's cooling towers before their demolition
Ironbridge Power Station's cooling towers before their demolition

Site manager Paul Alexander Wilson, aged 51, of Rugeley, in Staffordshire, died on March 4, 2021, some weeks after an accident at his workplace on Valentine’s Day.

A jury of 10 men and women was told that Mr Wilson, who had been working during furlough as an asbestos stripper in the car park under the administration block, had suffered a broken right tibia. Medics said it could have been caused by a fall from a scaffolding tower, or by his leg twisting when he fell down a manhole.

John Ellery, Shropshire senior coroner, said medics had recorded that Mr Wilson’s death had been caused by pulmonary thrombo embolism and Covid, which he had tested positive for at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. The inquest had to be held with a jury due to the leg injury.

It could have been caused by him falling from a mobile tower or when he tripped, twisted and fell. The jury was told either was medically possible.

His condition deteriorated, he went to intensive care, and suffered a cardiac arrest and sadly died on March 4.

Mr Ellery said: “There is no direct evidence of what happened and the question remains, how did he sustain his leg injury?”

Mr Wilson’s wife, Lorraine, told the inquest at Shirehall, that she had questioned her husband after he told her that he had fallen down a manhole cover. Mr Wilson had been removing plastic sheeting that had been shielding the asbestos. It’s a process known as ‘de-sheeting’.

Mrs Wilson said he rang her 90 minutes after the accident to tell her that he “tripped down a manhole”.

“I knew he was lying, you can’t do that from falling down a manhole,” she said. She later rang him in hospital. “He said he was on the scaffolding tower. He said he was on the tower but was told to get down because the Health and Safety Executive are on site. Then he fell.”

She added that her husband was “just protecting people, his mates, because people get in trouble, don’t they?”

Robert Lynn, who had been working with Mr Wilson stripping asbestos, said he had known him all his life.

Coroner Mr Ellery warned Mr Lynn that he was under caution after it emerged that he had given the HSE a different account from what he was telling the jury. He had told the HSE that his friend had been “pulling sheeting down from the ground".

But he told the jury that he “saw him fall off the scaffold” from a height of six feet.

He said he had “lied” because Mr Wilson had asked him: “Promise to me that you won’t tell anyone that I was on the scaffold."

“When he phoned me from the hospital, he said ‘please stick to the story'."

He said he changed his account because he wanted “the truth” to be out.

“I am so glad it is out now,” said Mr Lynn. “I just wanted the truth to be out.

“I thought long and hard about telling someone, but it’s just what Paul told me.”

He told the jury that Mr Wilson had climbed over the side of the scaffolding using its frame to climb down. It had not been stabilised, not using a ladder and and a trap door.

The inquest continues.

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