Forklift driver died of head injuries

An inquest heard how a man who overcame cancer, died after suffering fatal head injuries when he leant out of a forklift truck.

Michael Iain Johnson, devoted husband and father-of-one, was early into his nightshift at the pet food plant, Wagg Foods at Dalton Airfield Industrial Estate, Topcliffe, near Thirsk, when theaccident happened on 27 August 2008. The inquest jury was told how the 44-year-old had apparently leaned out of the vehicles safety cage to check whether a large metal hopper needed emptying.

Colleagues found Mr Johnson trapped between the forklift and the hopper. Paramedics were immediately called to the scene but they were unable to save Mr Johnson who had suffered extensive head injuries and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Footage of the accident was taken from the CCTV system at the factory and was shown to the jury at the inquest in Northallerton. Deputy coroner John Broadbridge read a statement to the inquest from Mr Johnson’s widow, Rebecca. It read: “We had been happily married; there were no problems between us. He was a wonderful father. Michael was a down-to-earth guy, who would go with the flow.”

The inquest was also told how Mr Johnson had previously battled against cancer in 2003 and had undergone a mastectomy after being diagnosed. He had been a publican for many years, and managed pubs in North Yorkshire, before changing to his job at the pet food plant as it provided more regular hours.

Peter Phillips was Mr Johnson’s shift leader and it was him who went to his aid after the accident. He said: “I saw Mike trapped between the side of the hopper and the side of the forklift. An ambulance was called and we tried to move the truck.” He also told the inquest that all forklift truck drivers were trained not to move outside the safety cage while the machine was moving.

A spokesman for Wagg Foods said: “The loss of an employee in tragic circumstances is one of the most difficult and challenging times for any company. We are all extremely saddened by Michael Johnson’s death and he is sorely missed. This verdict hopefully represents another step towards closure in respect of the accident for everyone involved. Meanwhile our thoughts and deepest sympathies remain and go out to his family and close friends.”

The inquest recorded a verdict of accidental death.

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