Death wagon ‘floated like a hot-air balloon’

A CALDERDALE man was crushed to death after a lorry “floated through the air like a hot-air balloon” in gale-force winds, an inquest heard.

Edward Slaney, 35, of Sowerby Bridge New Road, Sowerby Bridge, was hit as the truck was blown off all four wheels in a notoriously windy Bridgewater Place, Leeds.

Driver Paul Bartle told Leeds Coroner’s Court he had made his way to the city centre to escape the gales and was driving past Bridgewater Place when his lorry was blown on to Mr Slaney and a 22-year-old woman waiting to cross the road.

“I was doing about 20mph. The next thing I remember is I’m on my side,” said Mr Bartle.

“I floated through the air. It just carried me. It was like a hot-air balloon going up.”

Joiner Andrew McKenzie said he and other bystanders, along with a team of workmen with a digger, helped to lift the lorry off Mr Slaney and the woman.

Mr McKenzie said: “As soon as the lorry came out of the shelter of the building, that was when it all went wrong.

“It was mad. It got lifted up like a bit of paper and got thrown across the road. I can remember screams, everything seemed to slow down. It was surreal.”

Another witness, Paul Pheasey, said in a statement: “It was like something from a twister film on TV.”

Ambulances took Mr Slaney and the woman to hospital. Mr Slaney, an environmental engineer, died of chest injuries.

The woman survived but sustained serious internal injuries and is now afraid to go outside when it is windy, the inquest heard.

Pc Noel Lowdon told the court the accident spot had become known for strong winds and that day “freakishly high” speeds of between 67mph and 79mph were recorded at the building.

“There had been reports of strong winds round the base of this building since it was built in 2007,” he said.

Ruth Evans, Mr Slaney's partner, said in a statement: “I really miss Ed and I have lost something very special in my life.”

The inquest continues today.