‘Lessons can be learned from our son’s tragic death’

AVOIDABLE TRAGEDY ... parents Maria and Trevor Burden. Inset, their son Jason

AVOIDABLE TRAGEDY ... parents Maria and Trevor Burden. Inset, their son Jason

THE family of a teenager who was killed in a workplace accident say they hope lessons can be learned from the tragedy.

A two-day inquest into the death of 19-year-old Jason Burden, of Fox Street, South Shields, ended yesterday with the coroner ruling a verdict of accidental death.

The trainee mechanical engineer was in the final year of an apprenticeship at Tyne Slipway and Engineering company, at South Docks, Sunderland, when a tunnel thruster from a ship fell off a work bench and crushed him on December 8, 2011.

Assistant coroner Andrew Hetherington was told his death was caused by chest and abdominal injuries.

Jason had been doing a repair on the one-tonne piece of machinery – a gearbox and propeller system used to manoeuvre ships – when the tragedy happened.

The hearing was told Jason had been on a training course with the equipment’s manufacturer – Brunvoll – and was “more than capable” of doing the job.

Company director Christopher Wilson, who was on business in Texas at the time of the accident, told the inquest: “He was qualified to do that job.

“A small job like a seal change. Brunvoll were more than happy for him to do that job and they said they would guarantee his work.

“He was very talented.”

The coroner was told the job which Jason was doing was a first for the company. It had never repaired that specific model of tunnel thruster on a bench in the warehouse before, and there were no specific safety rules in place.

The hearing had earlier been told that the thruster had not been secured with wooden chocks. The jury was also told that the accident, which happened “in the click of a finger,” could have been avoided if the piece of machinery had been secured to the work bench.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector, Stewart Eddie, said the thruster would have overturned “very quickly” if unbalanced.

“It was very quick,” he said. “I would say he didn’t have any chance to get out of the way.”

Jason had not been trained to use such wedges by Brunvoll, but had been told to do so by Mr Wilson and service engineer Anthony McCormack when the thruster first arrived at South Dock, when they supervised him dismantling it.

Earlier this year, Tyne Slipway and Engineering was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay costs of £47,936 at Newcastle Crown Court after pleading guilty to failing to discharge a duty under health and safety laws.

The company has now implemented specific safety rules and measures for the job Jason was doing.

After the hearing, Jason’s father, Trevor Burden, said: “We are heartbroken that we have lost our beautiful son in an accident that could and should have been prevented.

“We acknowledge and accept the conclusion of accidental death from this hearing, but hopefully lessons have been learned and no family has to suffer the unbearable pain we feel.

“We are pleased that Tyne Slipway and Engineering company have taken steps to ensure this never happens again.”

Jason is survived by his father, a taxi driver, mother Maria, sister Rachel, and brother Josh.

Verdict: Accidental death

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