Recovery worker crushed to death underneath broken down lorry in horrifying accident
A recovery driver who would “do anything for anyone” tragically died after being crushed underneath a broken down HGV that he had been called out to recover.
Brian Matthews had been assisting a lorry driver who had broken down in Exeter when he was killed in a horrifying accident on July 28, 2021.
An Inquest held at Exeter’s County Hall on Wednesday (November 16), heard how the 61-year-old had been preparing the vehicle for recovery after he had assessed it and found a hydraulic leak, DevonLive reports.
The lorry driver said in a statement that Mr Matthews went underneath the vehicle to disconnect the propeller shaft. However, he had failed to put any wheel chocks – wedges of sturdy material – against the vehicle’s wheels to prevent any movement.
Tragedy struck because the handbrake system of the lorry meant that the parking brake was essentially disabled when the propeller shaft was disconnected.
The lorry rolled forward and trapped Mr Matthews underneath, who died at the scene after sustaining fatal injuries.
Mr Matthews was the manager of road vehicle recovery business Clyst Commercials, and worked as a mechanic, call controller, and recovery worker.
His son, David, is the founder and director of the business. He said that his father had grown up on a farm and had always been involved in vehicle maintenance.
But on the day of his death, David recalled that his dad was concerned after taking his beloved poorly dog to the vet and that this might have impacted his decisions.
He said: “Sparky was like his baby. I could see he was really worried.”
After dropping the dog off, Mr Matthews went to work and responded to a call at around 11.30am about a lorry that had broken down on the B3184 on a slip road of the A30, near Exeter Airport.
The last time David spoke to his father was at about 12.15pm that day, when he told him that he was responding to the breakdown and asked for a tow truck to recover the vehicle.
He was shocked to hear of his father’s death later that day, adding: “I think his mind may have been on Sparky and not what he was doing”.
“Also, he had been forgetting a few bits and pieces; nothing big just minor stuff.”
Mr Matthews’ wife Sheila, who also helps out with the family business, told in a statement how the job was “his life”.
She said “he would do anything for anyone”, and that he kept the callout phone on him 24 hours a day, even responding on Christmas day.
She added: “He has always been mechanically minded and was a good mechanic”.
While Mrs Matthews said that her husband had been worried about their dog, she claimed that he was “not distressed”.
A police investigation into Mr Matthews death found that the lorry had been parked on a ‘moderate downward gradient’, and while the handbrake was on inside the cab of the vehicle, it was disabled after he disconnected the propeller shaft.
Police added that there were no suspicious circumstances or third-party involvement in his death.
The investigation’s conclusion said: “Mr Matthews was an experienced HGV recovery driver who had untaken this type of recovery many times. He did not use chocks which were required from stopping it moving when the prop shaft was disconnected.”
Coroner Alison Longhorn recorded a conclusion of accidental death, saying: “I give my sincere condolences to Brian’s family.”