A lorry driver froze to death inside his refrigerated trailer after becoming trapped between two pallets, an inquest has heard.
Father-of-three Mariusz Jastrzebski, 30, was working on his truck’s freezer unit in a layby off the A20 when he fell from a height of six feet.
The Polish driver – who was due to deliver to the Ardo UK company in Charing – got wedged between the pallets, which were full of frozen strawberries.
Detective sergeant Brian McKeon told the inquest at Archbishop’s Palace in Maidstone on Wednesday how Mr Jastrzebski was found opposite Hothfield Common on Thursday, August 3.
“It appeared he had been sitting on a pallet and somehow fallen forward,” he said.
“They were quite big, substantial pallets and the plastic on top of them was slippery because it was frozen.
“He was delivering strawberries to a local company further down the A20, but they only take deliveries up to a certain time, and he had missed the delivery time on the day before he was found so parked in the layby.”
Mr Jastrzebski’s employers in Poland had become concerned for his welfare after failing to hear from him for hours.
His truck’s tachograph device showed he parked up in the layby at 6.50pm on Monday, August 2 – and was only found by two concerned Polish lorry drivers at about 1pm the following day.
The truck’s temperature was recorded by officers at minus 18 degrees.
DS McKeon, who found there was no third party involvement, added: “Two people who worked in a mobile burger bar parked in the layby were approached by the lorry drivers.
“They realised there was a language barrier but established the drivers were concerned for the gentlemen.
“The two drivers then checked in the back of the lorry and as soon as they saw the deceased they went back to the burger van and they contacted us.”
"They said it was an accident and that he got unlucky..." - Mariyan Iliev
DS McKeon said a metal grill had been removed from the rear of the trailer and a torch and two sets of keys were found close to Mr Jastrzebski’s body.
Coroner Allison Summers – who praised DS McKeon’s report at the hearing – recorded a conclusion of accidental death.
She said: “It would seem he removed the back of the freezer unit and then either slipped or fell between two pallets which were six-feet high.
“He does not appear to have moved from that position, suggesting he got stuck or became unconscious.
“The position he was in compromised his breathing and this, coupled with the extreme cold temperature, caused hypothermia and led to his death.”
Mariyan Iliev, who lives in Singleton, called police after the two lorry drivers found Mr Jastrzebski’s body.
The 49-year-old has run the Simply Good Food burger bar opposite Hothfield Common for about a year.
He said: “I have never heard of anything like this before – there were ambulances, police and forensic detectives here.
“The two lorry drivers asked me to call the police and they said it was an accident and that he got unlucky.
“The drivers had been trying to get in contact with him as no one had heard from him.”