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EXCAVATION DEATH INQUEST

Young workman died when 2m excavation collapsed without warning

An inquest has heard that a 22 year-old workman died when a trench collapsed. An eyewitness said he “disappeared in seconds”.

The death occurred on a home extension project in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire on April 16 2008. The jury at Amersham Magistrates’ Court heard that Joshua Bladon was found trapped along with a shovel in base of the excavation

Crews from Aylesbury and the Urban Search and Rescue struggled to rescue Joshua while paramedics tried to resuscitate him. 

The emergency services at the scene were unable to save his life and he was pronounced dead after being released. 

Joshua was part of a 2-man team excavating footings for a 2-storey extension where trees on the neighbouring property required a section of excavation to be taken to a depth of 2m. Russell Smith director of Russell Smith Ltd had left site and assumed the work would be completed using a mini excavator. 

Experienced Plant Operator Brian Goss re-dug the excavation a couple of weeks after the incident using a machine and saw the trench collapse again before he had chance to install the trench sheets. Mr Goss noticed that there were sand fissures in the clay. 

HSE Specialist Inspector David Wonford questioned whether the mini excavator was able to reach far enough to complete the dig to the full 2m depth. Mr Wonford also said that “it wasn’t a question of whether the ground would collapse, but when.” 

The jury returned a narrative verdict which confirmed that Josh Bladon was in the trench when it collapsed but the jury could not be sure why. Thames Valley Police and HSE have been conducting a joint investigation.

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