Wednesday 21 February 2018

Airport worker held dying partner on runway

Catherine Kelly (right): outside court in Dublin yesterday
Catherine Kelly (right): outside court in Dublin yesterday

Gareth Naughton

THE partner of a man who plummeted seven metres to his death while de-icing a plane at Dublin Airport said yesterday he fell to the tarmac right beside her.

Catherine Kelly was sitting in the cab of the de-icing truck when the basket holding her partner of six years, David Ralph, broke free and crashed to the ground,

A rear pin holding up the basket had shattered, causing the accident at 4.30am on March 19, 2008.

"I didn't see the basket passing the windscreen. It came down so quickly," Ms Kelly told Dublin Coroner's Court yesterday. The 58-year-old, from Brackenstown in Swords, Co Dublin, suffered fatal head injuries in the fall.

The couple, both employees of SR Technics, had already de-iced 11 planes when the incident happened.

Mr Ralph had just started working on the rear section of a City Jet plane when the basket broke. He landed face down on the tarmac.

When co-workers arrived at the scene, Ms Kelly was holding his head and a pool of blood had gathered on the ground.

The court heard that an SR Technics maintenance crew had carried out an inspection of the de-icing machine in February.

Health and Safety Authority (HSA) inspector Frank Kerins said that in 1997 the de-icer's manufacturer JBT Aerotech had carried out a campaign to replace pins on the machines.

However, while some pins on the 1992 de-icer had been replaced, he said, the one that caused the accident appeared to be an original.

The machine had passed through several owners, including Team Aer Lingus, making the relevant paperwork difficult to track down.


He had been told by a former Team Aer Lingus employee that when the pins were being replaced, JBT Aerotech -- then FMC Technologies -- had sent a box of pins and instructed local engineers to do the work.

They were unable to do this and left it to the manufacturer's engineer to replace the pins, he was told. When contacted, the engineer told Mr Kerins that he did not recall carrying out the work. A file was sent to the DPP, who found no grounds for prosecution.

The inquest was adjourned when legal representatives for both SR Technics and JBT Aerotech raised objections that statements from two witnesses had not been forwarded to the Coroner's Court.

Coroner Brian Farrell, who adjourned the matter for further mention on June 27, noted that the HSA is the only investigative authority that does not furnish statements to the Coroner's Court.

Irish Independent

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