A CLASSIC car enthusiast from Skipton who was fatally crushed in a horrifying accident at a Carlisle auto-salvage yard died accidentally, an inquest jury has ruled.

A two-day hearing in Carlisle heard how 64-year-old Paul Spence died when a forklift truck he was helping to load on to a lorry fell on top of him, pinning him to the back of a skip wagon.

Formerly the owner of a vehicle recovery business, Mr Spence had been visiting the Michael Douglas auto-salvage yard in Etterby, Carlisle, on February 15 last year so he could collect the forklift truck.

He bought it from the yard’s owner, Michael Douglas, and aimed to use it in his workshop, where he restored cars.

Mr Spence was repositioning the two-and-half-ton machine on the back of a friend’s “beavertail” truck, which had a partially sloped bed.

Mr Douglas had just loaded it on to the lorry using a skip wagon, which had been reversed up to it. It was when Mr Spence stepped towards the lifting plate on which the forklift was standing that a winch cable holding the machine detached.

The lifting plate and forklift tipped, throwing Mr Spence off the lorry and then the forklift. It landed on top of him.

Describing what happened, Mr Douglas, who believed Mr Spence was experienced in loading such lorries, said: “Mr Spence took the handbrake off [the forklift], and it put full weight on to the winch rope.

“The [forklift] started to move backwards,causing the lifting platform to cantilever on the [lorry’s] tail. I saw the winch rope fly forwards and assumed it had broken.

“Unfortunately, Mr Spence was flying out towards the rear of the wagon and the [forklift] truck followed him, crushing him in the midriff. I was obviously very shocked - in a panic.” He pulled Mr Spence from beneath the truck after his colleague Ben Crabtree used another machine to lift off the forklift.

Mr Crabtree saw the accident happen as he was leaving the salvage yard’s office with a coffee.”I looked to my left and that was when it happened,” he said.

He saw Mr Spence - on the back of the skip wagon - step towards the back of the forklift, grabbing the machine’s frame.

At that moment, the lifting platform moved. “He disappeared between the two [lorries],” said Mr Crabtree.

He asked a colleague to call 999 and then used a telehandler - likened to a large forklift truck - to remove the forklift from Mr Spence’s body. Mr Crabtree carried out CPR on Mr Spence until the emergency services arrived.

But he could not be saved.The jury concluded that Mr Spence died accidentally from his injuries.

Summing up, Mr Ward quoted Mr Spence’s daughter Maria, who said of her father: “He was very caring, was always smiling. He was lovely.”


Paul’s family have now been told that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is proceeding with a prosecution over the case.


Maria added: “The past year has been incredibly difficult for us all and we are glad that the inquest process has come to an end.


“The conclusion reached by the jury was one that we had expected, and we would like to thank the coroner and the jury.  However, there are still a lot of questions that remain unanswered.


“We are aware that there is an HSE prosecution pending and we hope that we will get the answers we are looking for during the course of those proceedings.”


Sion Kingston, an expert workplace accident lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Maria, said: “This is a terribly tragic case, and this week has been hard for Paul’s family to relive what happened to him.


“Unfortunately, the constraints of the inquest process do not allow the family to receive all the answers to their questions and they are now preparing for the HSE prosecution which will examine more details of the case and hopefully provide them with the answers they seek.”