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Tyre burst death ’caused by corrosion’

Ipswich, UK:  Corrosion of a fork-lift truck wheel was a “likely scenario” when a tyre exploded fatally injuring a worker at a Suffolk port, an inquest heard.

Gary Deaves, 48, an Associated British Ports mechanic at Ipswich Docks died from head injuries after the tyre he was removing exploded in 2010. Deaves  was injured as he removed the wheel from a 1979 Hyster Challenger truck for maintenance.

An ABP safety officer said it was the first case of this sort the company had heard of.  The inquest heard the tyre exploded, propelling the wheel off the axle of the vehicle, which was raised off the ground.

Deaves was treated for head and brain injuries at Ipswich Hospital and later at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, but died on 9 May 2010.

Health and Safety Executive inspector David Gregory told Ipswich Coroner’s Court that although there were “always alternatives” the “likely scenario” which he believed was “that the flange ring [of the wheel] became detached because of age and corrosion.”

He said the explosion would not have happened if the tyres had been deflated, but that it was not standard practice to do this before they were removed.

Andrew Bowley, ABP’s safety manager, told the court it was now standard procedure to deflate all tyres before removing wheels from axles. Bowley’s written statement was read out by the coroner: “In my 37 years, I’ve never known rims come off like this.”

The court also heard from Mark Betts, who was working on the truck with Deaves, who said he “saw no problem with the wheels” before they started removing them. They had already taken two of the truck’s wheels before the accident happened.

The inquest continues.