Retired builder's fall off sea wall 'preventable'
THE family of a retired builder who died after falling from the sea walls on Weston-super-Mare promenade say his death was preventable.
Alan Harding, 76, from Worle, was on a Bank Holiday trip to the sea front with his wife when the accident happened on May 30, 2010.
The couple had been for a walk and stopped at the sea walls between the Grand Pier and Knightstone Island.
Mr Harding sat on the wall and reached for something in his trouser and jacket pockets before he tumbled 12ft to a pathway below, severely fracturing his skull.
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He went into cardiac arrest and a retired nurse, a paramedic and emergency specialists from the air ambulance tried to resuscitate him.
He was taken to Bristol Royal Infirmary but died later that day.
An inquest into his death yesterday heard that plans for railings at the wall had been delayed, and that North Somerset Council deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees had called them "health and safety gone mad."
Flax Bourton Coroner's Court was told that it was impossible to ascertain whether a heart attack or the fall had come first. The inquest was told Mr Harding had visited his GP five days before his death because he had felt breathlessness and chest pains. His doctor thought it could have been caused by angina so gave him medication.
The day before the accident Mr Harding had played golf for two hours without any problem, and that morning he and his wife Rosemary had walked around Weston. Mrs Harding told the court her husband had not experienced any pain that day and when they stopped he sat on the wall and she perched against it next to him. She said: "He went to get something from his inside pocket, then his trouser pocket, and with that he went over. Everything was in slow motion from then on."
Onlookers rushed to help and paramedic Ian Buck began to resuscitate Mr Harding, before treating his head wound. Dr Philip Cowburn, a consultant in emergency medicine who flew to the scene in the air ambulance, said: "He was a very unstable patient, just back from cardiac arrest. The question in my mind was, was this a primary cardiac event that resulted in a fall, or a fall and head injury and then a cardiac arrest. Either way, the management of it was the same."
The inquest heard that Mr Harding had suffered an undetected heart attack between three and seven days before his death, but that it was impossible to say if a heart problem had caused the fall, or if the fall had caused the heart attack.
Pathologist Edward Sheffield said either the heart attack or the head injury had caused his death.
Coroner Maria Voisin recorded a narrative verdict and said it was unnecessary to make recommendations to the council, as railings were put up along the sea walls last year.
Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Harding said: "It does help to hear what happened. Right at the beginning I knew the fall hastened his death. If safety barriers had been there he wouldn't have been able to sit on the wall. It was preventable."
The family's solicitor, John Baden-Daintree, said: "Health and safety is there to prevent deaths, it is not 'gone mad'."