Hill, William

Hill, William             1887 January 1st

Fatal Accident at the Great Western Railway Station

On Wednesday an inquest was held at the Infirmary before Mr Powning, deputy coroner, touching the death of William Hill, a porter, who met with an accident on the morning of the previous day whilst at work in the Great Western yard, and was so injured that he expired the same night. Mr G Bartlett was foreman of the jury.

Thomas Mead, a checker at the transfer shed of the Great Western Railway station, was the first witness called. He said that he was on duty there shortly after 11 o’clock on Tuesday morning and put Hill, who was under him, to sweep out a truck. Witness left him at that work whilst he went to attend at his other duties. There was an engine in the yard which was being worked by Thomas Jones, a driver. Jones was at that time making up the goods train and the train was in the same line as the truck which the deceased was sweeping out. There were seven trucks attached to the engine. The train was about 13 yards from the truck which the deceased was sweeping out. Witness returned to Hill about a quarter of an hour after he had given him the orders, and when about five yards from the truck saw him on his back on the ground with his head and shoulders across the rail along which the engine was coming. The wheel of one of the trucks between the train and the truck Hill was sweeping out was about a yard from deceased’s head and shoulders. The train was being backed very steadily, the rate at which it was going being, witness thought, less than two miles an hour. The truck which Hill had been sweeping out was to be connected with the train. Witness shouted to the driver to pull up and sprang between the train and the truck and tried to pull Hill off the rail. He removed his head, and before he could get his shoulder off witness was obliged to remove his own hand. The first wheel ran on to deceased’s shoulder and there it remained. Witness ran up to the driver and told him to pull the train up a little, as Hill was under the wheel. Jones did so at once, and witness and a man named Bungay got the deceased off the rail. Hill breathed after the wheel had been removed from his shoulder but he did not speak. They at once brought him to the Infirmary on a stretcher. Jones could not see Hill when the latter was on the truck. He (Jones) blew his whistle three times when coming towards the truck. Witness could not say whether Jones knew that Hill was working in the truck, but he should think that he did not. There were two trucks and a box van between the train and the truck on which the deceased was working. Witness thought that one of these went up against that on which Hill was working and caused him to fall. Witness did not know the age of deceased. Deceased’s daughter said that he was 84, but deceased himself told him that he was 76. Deceased was quite sober on the morning in question. He was fully competent to do the work in which he was engaged. Jones was sober.

Thomas Jones said he did not know anyone was at work in the truck from which deceased fell. He did not suppose that it was the duty of anyone to tell him that there was someone working there. Witness’s duty was to blow a whistle three times before the train came to a wagon. Witness did that when about 20 yards from the nearest truck not attached to the train. That would have given plenty of time to get out of the road. Witness had been in the service of the Company getting on for 32 years and had been engine-driver for 20 years. He was positive that he carried out the instructions of the company when making up the train.

William Chas. Davis, shunter, said he had been employed in the work of shunting nearly 13 months, and had been in the service of the company 11 years. On Tuesday he was engaged with Jones in making up the goods train. Jones was under witness’s directions. He had to obey witness’s signals. Witness was not aware that Hill or anyone else was at work on the truck at the time the accident occurred. They did not as a rule examine empty trucks to see if anybody was in one. The driver blew his whistle three times distinctly. The deceased was a little deaf but not very.

Levi Stephenson Luckham, house surgeon at the Infirmary, said that the deceased was brought to the institution at about half-past eleven. Witness at once saw him and admitted him at once to the accident ward. He was quite insensible and did not speak whilst at the Infirmary. Witness examined him and found that his left hand was crushed off just above the fingers, that his right shoulder and upper part of the arm were crushed, and that the right ear was torn off. He also had two or three small cuts on his head. He never recovered consciousness and died from the shock about six or seven o’clock. The deceased was only slightly deaf. He often came to the Infirmary through slight accidents.

Alfred Mathews, chief constable, stated that the daughter of the deceased told him that the latter was 84 years of age.

George Burt, chief inspector of the Bristol division of the Great Western Railway, said that he had known the deceased nearly 18 years. The deceased had been in the service of the company nearly 18 years as a supernumerary. He was constantly employed but was not on the regular staff. Notwithstanding his age the deceased was a hearty active man and was perfectly competent to perform the duties in which he was engaged. His wages were 15s a week. The driver fulfilled his duty by blowing the whistle when a short distance away. It was more out of charity than anything that they retained the deceased in their service.

A verdict of accidental death was returned.

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