THE father of a man killed when he was run over by a shovel loader at a Deeside papermill paid a moving tribute to his son on the final day of his inquest.

Former soldier Austin Thomas died while working as a machine operator for Downton's Haulage at UPM paper mill in Shotton when a shovel loader driven by his work mate Darren Wright hit him from behind before driving over him.

At the end of a four day inquest held in Abergele, a jury returned a conclusion of accidental death after assistant coroner Joanne Lees advised them it was the only verdict they could reach based on the evidence given.

The 29-year-old father-of-one was left with fatal crush injuries to his head and upper torso following the incident which happened inside a warehouse at the papermill on February 6, 2017.

Reaching their conclusion following about two hours of deliberation, the foreman of the jury said: "On February 6 at approximately 11.45am at Shotton papermill, Deeside, the deceased was walking past Bay 11 in an area used by pedestrians and vehicles.

"He was hit from behind by a shovel loader. The driver for some reason had not seen him."

Over the previous three days the inquest heard from a number of witnesses who worked alongside Mr Thomas as well as a health and safety experts and collision investigators.

It was revealed that at the time of his death Mr Thomas, of Gardener's Row, Oakenholt, Flint, was not carrying a radio which workers in the warehouse were supposed to use to communicate and tell each other where they were in the building when the shovel loaders or lorries were in use.

Calculating sight lines, forensic collision investigator Colin Dobbins had told the jury Mr Wright would have been able to see Mr Thomas, who was wearing a reflective jacket, for about 22 seconds as he drove up behind him at about 10mph before losing sight of him for five seconds immediately before the collision.

Appearing as a witness, Mr Wright, who was described by a workmate as being “hysterical” following the incident, said he thought he had run over a bundle of paper when he felt himself “lift up” in the seat of the shovel loader as it drove over his friend and colleague, a man who had served with the Welsh Guards in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Mr Wright then left the scene and went home where he was later arrested by North Wales Police who carried out a swab test which tested negative for both drugs and alcohol.

A blood test taken later, however, revealed Mr Wright had smoked cannabis before February 6, although the level was 50 per cent below the legal drive limit.

The jury also heard that the warehouse lacked any definable walkways for pedestrians who wanted to move around the building at the same time as vehicles and that the Volvo shovel loader used by My Wright had a faulty camera which could have aided front vision from the cab.

Paying tribute to his son, Allen Thomas, who also worked at the papermill as a supervisor, told the inquest: "I began working with UPM on October 26, 1986.

“I find it hard to believe that nearly 32 years to the day we would be at the inquest of our son.

“I thought then, as I still do, it's the safest place to work.

“This week has been very stressful but it is nothing compared to losing Austin.

“We all miss him so much, especially his little boy. Please think of Austin and smile. He would have liked that."

At the end of the inquest Mrs Lees said she was reserving judgement on a prevention of future deaths report until she had received details of changes to both Downton's and UPM's workplace policies and procedures and read their updated risk assessments.

Both companies have been issued with notices of prosecution since the incident by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and declined to comment following the hearing.