Family of grandad crushed to death under 30 tonnes of rice pay emotional tribute

The family of a grandad who was crushed to death by 30 tonnes of rice in a work accident has paid tribute to him six years after his death.

John Burns, 61, in October 2015 died after the weight of the rice smothered him, causing blunt force injuries to his chest, Liverpool Echo reports.

The dock worker, who worked at Garston Docks, was found buried under the 30 tonnes of rice when he was trapped at the rear end of his tipper truck when it deposited the cargo.

The inquest found chest injuries he received as a result of the accident were enough to have caused his death, but further evidence showed he had suffocated due to the pressure on his chest and the obstruction to his airway.

A Home Office pathologist established he was likely already dead by the time he was pulled out from under the load by his workmates.

John’s stepdaughter, Michelle Meredith, spoke about her step-dad who had been with her mum for 26 years.

She spoke of his love for her work, his passion for the Liverpool football club and his own personal experience surviving the Hillsborough tragedy.

She said: “John was an only child, he was very close to his mum and dad. His dad introduced him to Liverpool football club when he was only three years old and carried him on his shoulders to his first game. He was passionate about his team.

“He was a Hillsborough survivor. He was in touch with the enquiry and gave a statement to them.

“It deeply affected him because he’d had a season ticket up until Hillsborough and then he never went back the match.

“He was also a union man, always fought for the underdog. That’s why me and my mum wanted to see this through to the end with HSE [Health and Safety Executive].

“I didn’t realise until all this started how dangerous dock work is for all them men down there. The companies need to make it as safe as they can. I know it won’t bring John back but even if they bring in small changes – which they have.”

Michelle continues to speak highly of John, stating he had idolised her very own son when he was born.

He had begun as a dock worker after following in the footsteps of his own dad when he was just 16 years old.

He had always been a driver in some form and loved the camaraderie he shared with his workmates. He also volunteered as a minibus driver for pensioners living in Speke.

Michelle added: “He loved to work, he just loved it and he took great pride in it.

“We’ll still never know why John went around the back of his truck. The men who worked alongside John, they spoke at his inquest.

“When you hear the 999 call to say that John’s buried underneath you could hear it in their voice, they’re fighting to save their friend, not a work colleague. It was devastating to hear it.”

In a tribute written for her step-dad, read out at the inquest into his death, Michelle spoke how she finds it incredibly hard to still come to terms with his death.

She said: “To us he was a dearly loved partner of 26-years, a dad, a loving and proud step-dad, and a doting granddad to his grandchildren who miss him so so much. An ordinary working man who left home that morning, to never ever return back home to his family.”

Michelle said she would like her step-dad’s legacy to be the improvement in the safety and work conditions for his colleagues, adding: “John always fought for the underdog. He wanted to make things better that’s why we have followed it for the past six years, to make it better for them men.

“He made things better for his comrades down the docks.”

An inquiry by the HSE [Health and Safety Executive], found the company had broken in their duty to carry out a proper and adequate risk assessment or put in place suitable control measures – including the failure to secure the hold to run actuator, which would have prevented drivers exiting their vehicles and therefore out of the way of the tipping load.

Associated British Ports Holdings Ltd pleaded guilty to committing multiple health and safety failings and was fined £1.8 million and ordered to pay costs of £31,694.42 at a court case on October 8 in 2015.

An ABP spokesperson said: “We deeply regret the tragic accident back in 2015 which led to the death of Mr Burns. Our sincerest sympathies remain with his family and friends.

“We accepted the failings which were highlighted by the investigations following this incident.”

Henrik L. Pedersen, ABP Chief Executive Officer, said: “Safety is a core value at ABP and making sure our colleagues go home safely every day is a priority to me.

“I want everyone involved in this case, Mr Burns’ family, the HSE and the court to know that the business remains committed, since this awful event, towards the goal of ensuring that a similar incident can never occur, and we have made significant progress over the last six years.

“I am a firm believer that safety comes first, particularly in our industry. I want the company I run to be safe and responsible, both towards its workforce and the environment and the local communities in which it operates.”