Published: 00:01, 30 May 2015
A road repair worker was killed instantly when he was hit by a crane arm while he was clearing up after a smash on the A2 near Barham.
Larry Newman, 37, was a foreman with Balfour Beatty Mott McDonald, which held the contract to fix damaged crash barriers across the county.
The dad-of-four was part of a team which had to repair badly-damaged central reservation barriers after a French lorry loaded with Red Stripe beer smashed into them on October 1, 2012.
During the early hours of the following morning it was realised that many of the concrete pilings supporting the barrier were smashed.
A digger brought in to help remove them was not powerful enough, so a lorry-mounted crane was brought in to deal with a difficult concrete block weighing three quarters of a ton.
The block was partially pulled out of the ground and it was decided to let the crane arm take the strain while chains were put around it so it could be loaded on to a truck.
An inquest in Sandwich this week heard that the block slipped back into a trench and the crane arm moved, smashing Mr Newman’s head against a stabilising leg.
"I heard a bang and something knocked me out and I slipped into the hole. When I recovered I saw Mr Newman’s head was trapped between the crane leg and the crane arm..." - Daniel Gammon
Fellow foreman Daniel Gammon was feet away from Mr Newman.
He said: "I heard a bang and something knocked me out and I slipped into the hole.
“When I recovered I saw Mr Newman’s head was trapped between the crane leg and the crane arm.”
Mr Gammon said he’d never seen chains used to remove a block before.
The crane was holding the block in place but the ground was slippery due to it being wet with beer. The men were working at night and it was dark.
Crane driver Glenn Chantler said the block was sliding into the hole, trapping Mr Newman.
He was using the crane remote control and knew the two men were moving around the bottom of the block.
He said: “Suddenly there was a lot of noise. I saw Dan jump backwards away from the crane arm. I could see from his injuries that Larry had been killed.
“If I had seen Larry between the block and the lorry I would have told him to get out. It was dangerous.”
Mr Chantler, who was working for a sub-contractor, said he had not been given a risk assessment by Balfour Beatty and that the men were left to their own devices.
Keith Neilson’s job was to install fresh barriers and he had tried to use a digger to lift some of the concrete footings.
They stopped using the digger because it nearly tipped over when it tried to lift one of the blocks.
He was pouring concrete into newly-vacated holes when he heard a cry and someone shouting "stop, stop".
He said: “I went to the side of the wagon and saw poor Larry’s head was trapped. When we moved the crane leg he wasn’t moving.”
"I don’t believe it was accidental. A crane malfunctioning is accidental, human error is not..." - Mr Newman's wife, Lisa
Mr Newman, of Plains Avenue, Maidstone, died from multiple head injuries.
Health and Safety Inspector Andrew Cousins said he thought somebody had touched the controls in the crane.
He said: "The HSE say someone must have had their finger on the button in the cab.
“The whole operation is one that shouldn’t be mounted.
“Unless someone touches the controls the crane should not shift.
“Balfour Beatty had not prepared a method as to the system of work being utilised, which in my view was not safe.”
Mr Newman’s wife, Lisa, told the two-day hearing: “I don’t believe it was accidental.
“A crane malfunctioning is accidental, human error is not.”
Coroner Roger Hatch told the jury they could rule the death was accidental or return an open verdict.
After deliberating on Wednesday morning, they returned a verdict of accidental death.
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