Misadventure in death of Spalding farmer with flower parade role

Robin Chappell of Spalding.
Robin Chappell of Spalding.
  • Inquest jury returns its verdict after farm tragedy

A Spalding farmer died from a severe neck injury after he “inadvertently” set off a box tipping machine with his body, an inquest jury has found.

Robin Chappell (71), of Elm Gable, Spalding, tragically died on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 while clearing a spillage of potatoes from a machine bought by his brother David to speed up the process of grading and sorting the vegetables for a major UK producer of oven chips.

The covering of the light sensor was a significant factor in the death of Robin Chappell

Retired Detective Constable David Parrish, now of East Midlands Operational Support Services

After a two-day inquest in Boston on Thursday and Friday, a jury of three men and eight women returned a verdict of misadventure on the death of Mr Chappell who had been a pivotal figure in the running of Spalding Flower Parade for more than 30 years.

The jury heard evidence on the opening day from retired detective David Parrish who said that on the day of the tragedy at the family-run farm, Mr Chappell had been using a forklift truck to load boxes of potatoes onto a Tong Peal Control Box Tipper delivered to the farm a day earlier.

Mr Parrish said: “Over the winter of 2013/14, the farm had harvested approximately 650 boxes of potatoes for a contract it had with McCain Foods to supply them with potatoes for oven chips.

“In order to speed up the process, a decision was made to buy a box tipping machine that was designed to accomodate 5ft wide boxes, even though the farm also had 4ft 6in boxes.

“David had a discussion with Robin about how 4ft 6in boxes couldn’t trigger the two light sensors at the back of the machine, so David placed a cardboard box over one of the sensors to allow the machine to operate in automatic mode.

“The covering of this light sensor was a significant factor in the death of Robin Chappell.”

There was also evidence on Friday from Scott Wynne, an inspector with the Health and Safety Executive, who concluded that the “deliberate defeating” of one of the machine’s light sensors was the main “underlying cause” of the fatal accident.

Mr Wynne said: “If only one of the light sensors is covered, the machine wouldn’t commence with the tipping action.

“The idea was to block one of the sensors with a cardboard box so the machine would think that the 4ft 6in box of potatoes is covering both sensors, allowing Robin Chappell to load boxes that wouldn’t be wide enough (as 5ft boxes would be) to cover both sensors.

“Unfortunately the sensor doesn’t know whether it’s a human body or a box and the clamp lid ultimately closed on Robin Chappell, causing head and neck injuries.”

Safety light covered with cardboard’ before Spalding farmer’s tragic death, inquest is told