Teenager was ‘crushed to death by forklift truck in first month of new job’

A teenager was crushed to death by a forklift truck while working at a farm less than a month after starting his new job, an inquest heard. Zach Richardson, 18, was found trapped between the truck and a wall at Elm Farm, near Shipdham, Norfolk, on October 24 2020, a hearing in Norwich was told. His medical cause of death was recorded as "due to compression asphyxia", Norfolk's senior coroner Jacqueline Lake said.

She said Mr Richardson, of Hubberts Bridge near Boston, Lincolnshire, started working for Lincolnshire Firewood Company as a yardman on October 6 2020. "He completed two days of formal forklift training," she said. Mr Richardson was on site at D.D.

Dodd and Son, Elm Farm, on October 24, Ms Lake said. "He was with his employer, Mr Jenkins, who left (the) site in order to pick up a car," she said. "On return to the site shortly before 1715 hours, Mr Richardson was found trapped between a forklift truck and a wall." Mr Richardson was declared dead at the scene after emergency services were called, the inquest heard.

Ms Lake told jurors they would hear evidence about Mr Richardson's training and the "servicing of the two forklift trucks". Scott Ekins who trained Mr Richardson to use forklifts on October 17 and 18, said it was "clear to see he had been" on one before. He said the teenager "seemed very level-headed", "asked a lot of questions" and "took notes" and "on the day he was the most fluent out of the three (candidates)".

Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel KC, for Mr Richardson's family, said the forklift truck was fitted with a seat sensor which should have stopped it from moving when nobody was in the driver's seat. Ms Gumbel told Mr Ekins: "The seat sensor didn't work as it must have moved when he (Zach) wasn't in it as you know he was crushed between the wall and the truck. "It must follow that the sensor wasn't working." Mr Ekins replied: "Yes, but he might not have known there was a sensor on there."

Mr Richardson's father, Kevin Richardson, who was at the hearing, said outside court his son had a "heart of gold". The 56-year-old, who lost an arm in a work accident 19 years ago, said his son "was always ready to help me". He said Mr Richardson, one of 10 siblings, was "just a lovely boy". "I've trained up all my six sons and Zach was the most talented," said Mr Richardson Snr.

"He was all set to make something great of his life. I never had to ask but he was always ready to help me around the house. "Family was everything to him and we feel like we failed him by encouraging him to take the job that killed him.

He didn't even get to spend his first pay packet. "I miss him like you'd never believe." Aside from his love of his family, Mr Richardson will be remembered for being part of a team that reached the final 500 in a global Call Of Duty videogame championship, his father said. "And his motorbike... he loved his bikes," Mr Richardson Snr added.

Lawyer Emma Hall of Fieldfisher, who is investigating a civil claim on behalf of Mr Richardson's family, said his loved ones have been "waiting a long time to find out the truth about what happened to Zach on that terrible day".

The inquest continues.