A YOUNG steam engine enthusiast was crushed to death after riding on an engine with his father in an “incredibly tragic” incident, an inquest heard yesterday.
Karl Doran, seven, was volunteering at the time with his father Phillip at Beamish Museum, Stanley, County Durham.
The father and son, from Darlington, County Durham, had been driving a vintage steamroller around the open air attraction for visitors to see and had also attached a trailer to the back.
Karl was standing on the vehicle’s tow bar as his father drove the engine, a position described at the inquest as a dangerous place to be. He fell off and was crushed by the 1.5 tonne trailer.
Detective Chief Inspector Victoria Fuller, from Durham Constabulary, said the pair had been helping other volunteers working on the engines before setting off around the site in July last year.
She said Karl had been seen sitting on the tow bar and his father had asked him to join him in the engine after he began to drag his feet.
She said: “Mr Doran became aware of the trailer rocking and he then realised that Karl was no longer on the engine.
He saw Karl lying about 15ft to 20ft behind the trailer on the road. He was not responsive and there were no signs of life.”
The inquest at Crook Civic Centre, County Durham, was told that the museum had not dealt properly with the risk assessment of towing trailers and the carrying of passengers and children.
Victoria Wise, from the Health and Safety Executive, said Beamish was aware that children would ride on the engines, but that relied on the competence of the drivers.
“Riding on a draw bar is a dangerous place to be. Every year there are numerous accidents in agriculture where people are riding on draw bars,” she said.
“Riding on the bar itself puts you between two pieces of moving machinery and its not designed to carry passengers.”
As a result the HSE issued Beamish with an improvement notice, which it took action on, but its investigation is still yet to fully conclude.
After instructing the jury to deliver a verdict of accidental death, Coroner Andrew Tweddle said it was a tragic case.
He said: “This is a very simple case, but an incredibly tragic one at the same time.
“No one, particularly Karl’s dad, would have expected things to turn out in the way that they did that day.”
Richard Evans, director of the museum, said the safety of its visitors was its top priority and it wanted to exceed any standards that were out there and be an example of best practice.