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Prosecutors alerted as inquest into Roche farm death is halted

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: February 27, 2014

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AN INQUEST into the death of a man who was electrocuted at a farm in Roche has been halted and referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The jury inquest into Jason Morgan, held at Epiphany House, near Truro, last week, was stopped on day four out of an anticipated five days.

Mr Morgan, a 33-year-old from Bristol, was installing safety netting on a steel-framed barn extension being built at a beef farm in Great Brynn Barton in June, 2011.

He was found at the bottom of an aluminium ladder in full cardiac arrest at around 9.30am after working near three 11,000-volt power cables at the top section of the barn.

He was being airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Treliske, where he was pronounced dead at 10.40am.

The inquest heard from Roger Matthews, the managing director and safety director of Wadebridge-based firm Matthews Plant Ltd, which owned the barn.

He told the inquest that he accepted what was done by his company to ensure the safety of workmen on the site "fell short of what should have been done".

The inquest heard that Mr Morgan died of cardiac arrhythmia caused by electrocution after coming into contact with one of the cables, the nearest of which was just under two metres away from the steel structure.

During a post-mortem examination an electrical entry burn was discovered on Mr Morgan's left forearm, and what appeared to be an exit wound was found on his left middle toe. Mr Matthews said he was not able to give an explanation for the "omission" on behalf of Matthews Plant Ltd to take appropriate steps to minimise danger on the site.

In March 2010, a month before submitting a planning application for the barn extension, Mr Matthews met Western Power Distribution (WDP) to see how the cables could be redirected.

He also received a quote for burying the cables underground, but neither plan materialised and work on the barn continued with the power lines still live and in their original overhead position.

Just under two weeks before the incident, Mr Matthews was sent a letter by WPD expressing concern about people operating in close proximity to the cables.

Mr Matthews said he doesn't open or read his post and only opened the letter a few hours after the incident on the afternoon of June 13.

Mr Matthews told the inquest he wasn't aware the cables were that close to the barn and was of the opinion that they were over three metres away.

He said he knew there would be men working in an elevated position on the day of Mr Morgan's death "but only within or on top of the building".

"The work was supposed to be within building, the steel building provided protection, the building provides a form of defence," Mr Matthews said.

The inquest heard that, during the construction of the barn, a barrier was formed with building materials, but was removed four days before the incident so workers could gain access to attach the safety netting.

Mr Matthews said he wasn't aware the barrier was removed but accepted that the absence of protection on the day of the incident was attributable to Matthews Plant Ltd.

The reasons for the adjournment of the inquest have not been disclosed to the Cornish Guardian.

Truro Coroner's Court said: "The assistant coroner, Mr Andrew Cox, has adjourned the inquest and has referred the case back to the Director of Public Prosecutions."

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