Radiographer killed by bus after he was hit and driver mistakenly lowered the suspension onto his head rather than raise it for the emergency services to get him out
A graduate trapped under the wheels of a bus was fatally crushed when the panicking driver mistakenly lowered the vehicle’s suspension rather than raising it, an inquest heard.
The bus went down six centimetres, crushing 22 year old David Wood’s skull and the inquest was told it was likely this rather than the collision that killed him.
Mr Wood was hit by the double decker bus the day after finding out he had secured his ‘dream job’ as a radiographer at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in central London.
His death in hospital two days later from crush injuries to his head prompted the Coroner to write a prevention of future deaths report for bus companies after it was revealed instruction manuals did not make it clear that a switch that can raise a bus could also lower it.
Mr Wood, who graduated from City University in June with a 2:1 and lived in Kentish Town, north London, had stepped out in front of the oncoming double decker, the inquest heard.
As he lay trapped bus driver Edward Jones-Morrison inadvertently activated the wrong switch while trying to raise the bus so Mr Wood could be freed, the hearing was told.
Workmen then tried to jack up the double decker as Mr Wood lay stricken beneath it with his legs sticking out.
Mr Jones-Morrison told Poplar Coroner’s Court he had been driving buses for 13 years and had never had an accident.
Despite slamming on the brakes he was unable to avoid hitting Mr Wood at the junction of Clerkenwell Road and Farringdon Road in August this year.
He tried to use a ‘kneel down’ switch to free Mr Wood before resorting to a ‘ferry switch’ which he had never used before.
However, the bus sank onto Mr Wood crushing his skull and he died two days later.
He said: “I got out of the bus and I was going towards the front of the bus to see if the gentleman was in front of the bus.
“I went back in to the cab and called for code red who contacted the emergency services.
“A lot of people rushed to the bus trying to raise the bus – to lift it up – they were bystanders.
“I tried to raise the bus with the kneeling button. I pushed the button but it wouldn’t raise. ”
Mr Jones-Morrison then tried another button – the ferry switch – which an instruction manual shown in court states raises the vehicle and had an up and down arrow.
Mr Jones-Morrison said: “I pushed the ferry switch with the intention of the bus going up.”
He added he would have been able to operate the switch correctly in a non-panic situation but when coroner Mary Hassell asked if it was possible that he had pushed the down arrow by mistake he replied : “I’m not sure.”
He also admitted he was panicking as he had “never been involved in such an incident before.”
Luke Bellany who had jumped out of his van to help said Mr Hall had been “screaming for help” and was conscious before the bus came down on him.
He said: “Everyone was shouting to raise the bus. It never went up, it went down.
“There was an eerie silence as if we all knew what had happened.”
Joshua Pearce added: “Someone was in the (driver’s) seat when the bus lowered down and then people shouted and it stopped lowering.”
A forensic pathologist Dr Simon Poole told the inquest Mr Hall’s cause of death was from ‘multiple injuries’ to his pelvis, chest and skull.
“On the balance of probabilites” the ‘crushing injuries’ to his skull caused Mr Hall’s death rather than the collision itself.
He said: “I think the crushing injuries are more likely on the balance of probabilities.”
Collision investigator PC Stephen Sayer said the bus had been lowered to 13cm while it’s driving height was 19cm.
However he pointed to an instruction manual given to drivers saying: “It says that pressing the switch raises the bus, it doesn’t mention that it also lowers it.”
Coroner Mary Hassell recorded a narrative verdict that Mr Wood was killed in a bus accident.
But she added: “However, the injuries that caused his death were a result of the bus crushing him when the driver inadvertently lowered the bus rather than raise it.
“He became trapped underneath the bus and having heard all the evidence, on the balance of probabilities, the bus driver panicked, realising there was somebody under the bus, meant to raise the bus but lowered it and when he lowered it, it seems to me that these fatal injuries were sustained, not on impact.”
She added she would call for a future death reports and find out who produced the instruction manual, as well as contacting the bus company to draw attention to the incident.
She said refresher training could be offered to drivers as “all of us when we’re panicking are capable of doing the wrong thing.”
Mr Wood’s family, of Westmill, Herts, in a statement released at the time of his death said: “It was his dream job that he had wanted ever since he lost his Auntie Julie to leukaemia in 2010.
“We would like to thank everyone involved in rescuing him.
“Thanks to the public, especially the workmen trying to jack up the bus at the scene. ”
Mr Wood’s family highlighted that he was an organ donor, and both his kidneys and his liver were donated.
The Coroner told his mum, dad and partner, who were present at the inquest: “While those who received his organs will never be able to thank you in person, they will benefit from that gesture for the rest of their lives.”