Dad Sandy Noble was working on a lift at Royal Oldham Hospital when he was crushed in an elevator shaft, with a coroner’s court hearing he had been working on the wrong lift at the time
A dad died a horrific death as he tried to repair “the wrong lift” at a hospital, an inquest has heard.
Sandy Noble was attempting to fix a fault with one of the lifts at the Royal Oldham Hospital, Greater Manchester when he was crushed to death. The 33-year-old, who was not qualified to work as or alongside a lift engineer, had been attempting to prop open the doors with a screwdriver and switch it off when it “came loose”.
But a court heard the dad had mistakenly begun work on the wrong lift at the time. An emergency stop button had also had an “intermittent fault”, a subsequent investigation found.
Sandy’s mum told Rochdale Coroner’s Court that her son had been regularly changing jobs before his death in February 2021, and didn’t have any qualifications to be working on elevators at the time. Carol Biggins told the court: “I really don’t think it was the kind of job he should have been doing on his own.”
Sandy, who was described as a “lovely man”, would often send his mum photos of the jobs he was working on, and hadn’t expressed any worries at the time about his area of work. The dad from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, had travelled to Oldham for the job after working on two lifts at the hospital two weeks prior.
Mrs Biggins said he “seemed okay” at the time. After tragedy struck, Sandy’s death was investigated by Greater Manchester Police and the Health and Safety Executive. Addressing the court, GMP’s Detective Inspector Andrew Fink said the force was made aware of the incident in the hospital’s basement in “lift five”, Manchester Evening News reports.
The detective told the court the investigation found no evidence to explain why Mr Noble was in this particular lift – which at the time was fully operational – as he had been tasked to work on the adjacent lift six, which was being re-wired. Officers who arrived at the scene spoke to Daniel Belton, was was working alongside Mr Noble after being employed by Direct Ascendant Lifts to work on the hospital job.
Both had stayed at a nearby hotel the night before the job on February 22, and on the day in question, he had been on the first floor when he heard “shouting” below. Mr Belton had shouted Mr Noble’s name but heard no reply, DI Finkle said.
Mr Belton ran to the basement and saw the doors to the shafts for lifts five and six were closed. He opened the door to lift six but could not see his colleague and then saw his legs in the lift shaft, the court heard. Mr Belton told police he entered the shaft for lift six and ripped away a wire mesh separating the two shafts.
Mr Belton told police he could detect no pulse and the emergency services were called. Nobody witnessed the tragedy although investigators reviewed CCTV which showed the lift doors from an angle, the court heard.
DI Fink told the court the investigation had uncovered no documents for any risk assessment or a health and safety plan for lift six. The officer confirmed Mr Belton had employed Mr Noble for two years as an “apprentice/labourer’s assistant”.
Mr Noble did not have an NVQ Level 3 qualification to allow him to work as a lift engineer nor did he have a qualification to allow him to work under the supervision of a qualified lift engineer, said DI Fink. The court heard at the bottom of each lift shaft is a ‘safety zone’ into which anyone can retreat if for any reason a lift starts to descend while working there. The lift will stop short of the ‘safety zone’.
DI Fink said the ‘only thing I can possibly suggest’ was that Mr Noble had not seen or heard the lift as it descended, as officers found his body was not ‘in the centre of the space’ when he was found, he told the court.
Mr Belton had told officers he had asked Mr Noble to prepare equipment to begin work on the mechanical roller shutters for lift six, said DI Fink, adding that he didn’t know why he had been in that lift at the time. The detective added that “it looks like” Mr Noble had used a screwdriver to hold apart the doors to the lift, which rendered the lift inoperable.
A screwdriver was found on the floor and it appeared to have “come loose” and allowed the doors to shut and render it operable. The detective also confirmed analysis showed that one of two emergency ‘stop buttons’ in the lift was found to have an “intermittent fault”.
Earlier, the inquest heard Home Office pathologist Professor Philip Lumb conducted a post-mortem examination and concluded Mr Noble died of ‘head and neck injuries. Toxicological analysis showed no evidence of alcohol in his blood but did find THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, which suggested Mr Noble had used cannabis at some stage prior to his death, according to Prof Lumb.
Before the inquest started Mr Noble’s partner, Carley Holden, said: “Sandy was the best dad to our son, who adored him. He was loved by everyone and his death has left a huge hole in our family. To this day, I still struggle to accept that I’ll never see or speak to Sandy again. Our lives haven’t been the same since we lost him. It’s horrible to think that our son now has to grow up without his dad.
“While I know nothing will ever bring Sandy back, I hope the inquest, however difficult it may be, will provide us with answers so we can honour Sandy’s memory.” The inquest, which is due to last five days, continues.