Shotton man died after falling off ladder


Romilly Scragg

A MAN died after falling off a ladder, an inquest has heard.

Gethin William Kirwan from Halkyn Road, Hoole, Chester, died on April 4 last year less than 30 minutes after starting repair work at a house on the North Wales coast.

He was 35.

The inquest at Ruthin yesterday heard Mr Kirwan, who was originally from Shotton, Deeside, “blanked out” and fell 20 to 30 feet from the ladder he was using at Leanne Davies’ house on Llanrhos Road, Penrhyn Bay, near Llandudno.

Mr Kirwan, a former pupil of St Ethelwold’s Primary School in Shotton and John Summers High School, Queensferry, had had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, but in the last few years had turned his life around and reconnected with his family.

On the morning of Thursday, April 4, 2013, Mr Kirwan went to Mrs Davies’ home with Thomas Kevin Price of NW Cladding to carry out repairs to the building’s guttering, fascia boards and soffits.

It was while Mr Price was away buying breakfast for the two men that Mr Kirwan fell.

Giving evidence, Mr Price said after the men had unloaded their tools, equipment and materials, he went to buy breakfast, leaving Mr Kirwan to look after the tools but telling him not to use the ladders until he returned.

But window cleaner Christopher Raymond Duller from Llandudno, who was nearby, told the hearing he saw Mr Kirwan go up and down the ladder a number of times before falling.

“It was the way he fell,” he said. “In my eyes he fell like he blanked out. It was like he fainted.”

Mr Duller, who was sitting on the bonnet of his car talking on his mobile phone at the time of the accident, said Mr Kirwan did not swing his arms about as he fell.

“There was nothing there,” he said.

Pressed by a question from the family, he said Mr Kirwan had also not been reaching for anything before or during the fall.

“A hundred per cent. There was no activity there. He definitely wasn’t reaching. He definitely blanked out from the way he was falling.”

He also said the ladder had been correctly attached and had not moved.

Mr Kirwan, who was unconscious, was taken to Glan Clwyd Hospital where a CT scan showing severe brain damage and bleeding confirmed Mr Kirwan’s injuries were “unsurvivable”.

Treatment was stopped and Mr Kirwan was pronounced dead at just after 3pm.

A post-mortem examination carried out by assistant pathologist Dr Mark William Atkinson at Glan Clwyd Hospital confirmed the medical cause of death was head trauma resulting from a fall from a great height.

Mr Kirwan had suffered a major blow to his skull which had caused brain damage as well as further lacerations and bruising to his head, face, back and shoulder.

A toxicology report found a small amount of alcohol in his blood, below the drink driving limit, and 1.09mg/l of methadone.

Although within the potentially lethal range of 0.2 to 2.45mg/l for methadone, Dr Atkinson said people’s tolerance to the drug varied and assuming Mr Kirwan was a regular user, that level “could be OK”.

However, he said the methadone could have impacted Mr Kirwan’s balance and judgement and was “potentially of real significance”.

In a statement read to the hearing Mr Kirwan’s GP Dr James Ramsdale said his patient had informed him a week before his death that he had started injecting heroin again because of a problem with his methadone prescription.

With a long history of alcohol dependency and drug misuse, Mr Kirwan had been under the care of the community drug and alcohol team at Aqua House in Boughton, Chester and had been prescribed methadone and zopiclone which can cause drowsiness when mixed with alcohol, Dr Ramsdale said.

Health and Safety Executive inspector Christopher John Wilcox, who also gave evidence at the hearing, confirmed the ladder being used by Mr Kirwan had played no part in his death.

A jury of five men and four women reached a conclusion of accidental death.

Offering his condolences, David Lewis, assistant coroner for North Wales Central and East District, described Mr Kirwan’s death as a “tragic accident”.

In an emotional address at the hearing, Mr Kirwan’s mother, Pam Jenkins, said after a difficult period in his life, her son had grown up in the last few years, was “really happy” and enjoying his life with his partner and her child.

“He was really so happy,” she said. “I was proud of how he’d changed his life around in the last 12 months.”

She said her son had developed a drug problem since getting involved in recreational drugs at 18 or 19 and had spent time in prison.

But after a drugs awareness course in 2011, he had changed to such an extent that recently he had been welcomed back by the wider family.

“He was so proud,” said Mrs Jenkins, a former nurse. “He said: ‘It’s really great to be back in the family again. I always knew what I’d lost and I’ve got it back’. And he had.”

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