Dad dies under ambulance he is fixing for disabled daughters

June 24, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A devoted dad was crushed to death underneath an ambulance he was converting to transport his disabled daughters, an inquest heard.

Tragic Paul Smith, 31, bought the vehicle because it was big enough to accommodate the wheelchairs of his two girls, aged five and six.

The inquest heard how the qualified mechanic propped the vehicle up on axle stands, trolley jacks and wooden blocks to work on its suspension.

But the two tonne Fiat Ducato slipped from the supports and his partner Lou Bryant, 26, came home from a shopping trip to find him crushed underneath.

She told the hearing in Trowbridge, Wilts: ”We bought the ambulance to fit the kids in.  Paul had been doing some repair work on it when it just went wrong.

”Paul definitely wouldn’t have done anything he thought was risky and it certainly looked safe to me.  I came home from shopping and found him.

”When I first saw him he was lying under the van.  I called his name and he said nothing and then I even kicked him and he didn’t respond.”

Paul, who lived in Devizes, Wilts., worked as a tyre fitter and a scaffolder before giving up work to care for his two disabled children full-time.

He bought the former ambulance in October last year because his previous car was too small to transport their daughter’s wheelchairs.

However, the vehicle was in need of repair work and on February 5 this year Paul jacked it up on axle stands, trolley jacks and wooden blocks.

But as he was installing new leaf springs on the suspension the huge ambulance shifted sideways and fell from its support, killing him instantly.

Devastated Lou, who met Paul in 2002, found his body at around 12.15am after returning from a shopping trip in nearby Trowbridge, Wilts.

Along with her mother Chris Bryant and neighbours, she pulled Paul from underneath the ambulance but he was pronounced dead when paramedics arrived.

A post-mortem examination revealed that his death was caused by traumatic asphyxia and a crushing injury to the chest.

Assistant coroner for Wiltshire Claire Balysz recorded a verdict of accidental death at the hearing in Trowbridge, Wilts., on Thursday (24/06).

She said: ”Paul intended to prop his car up and work underneath it – he was trying to convert it to help transport his disabled daughters.

”We heard how there were some broken blocks and the trolley jacks were on the side as if they had been pushed over by Paul.

”We also heard how Paul didn’t always take enough care while working on vehicles because he was so eager to get to work.

”The collapse of the van on top of him was certainly not what he intended to happen.  I offer my condolences to the family for your very sad loss.”

Verdict: Accidental death

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