The manager of a paintball site was found dead in a van after 10 wooden ‘barricades’ fell on her at work in a tragic accident, an inquest has heard.
Samantha Hunt, from Plympton, died at Delta Force Paintball, in Sparkwell, on June 28 last year, reports the Plymouth Herald.
The 45-year-old was manager at the centre and was bringing 14 of the wooden barricades, which weigh around 40kg each, back from the company’s head office in Woking, Surrey.
A jury heard Hunt arrived back at the Sparkwell site later than expected, and was thought to be unloading the barricades from the van by herself - a practice which a health and safety expert dubbed “inherently dangerous”.
Timothy Lamb, assistant manager, was working on the day Hunt died. All other staff had left before Sam returned from Surrey, and when Lamb hadn’t heard from her in the evening he went to the centre.
He said: “I saw the van parked up and some boxes, I called out her name as it was very quiet. I went to the back of the van – one door was open and one closed. I opened it and discovered Sam.
“I looked in the van and saw Sam standing upright with at least 10 barricades against her chest at the side of the van.
“At first I thought she was joking so I called out her name and got in the van but it very quickly dawned on me that she was dead.”
Professor Amo-Takyi, consultant pathologist at Derriford Hospital, said Hunt had died of asphyxiation due to compression of the chest wall and windpipe.
He said: “I think the barricades skidded in the truck and pressed her to the truck wall and restricted her.”
Honey Foskett, a health and safety inspector at South Hams District Council, said: “The risk of loading, moving and unloading the barriers in this way was an inherently dangerous practice.”
She also found that the side door to the van was broken, saying “the risk of the barriers toppling could have been managed if the side door had been opened.”
Foskett also said the barriers weren’t individually secured, the van was parked on a slope and that a senior marshal and staff at head office had advised Hunt not to unload the van by herself.
Former colleague Trevor Davies told the court: “Sam had expressed some concerns about travelling back with the barricades in the back of the van on a long journey. I said if she got back late she should leave them in the van and we would help get them off the next morning.”
However there was equipment on the site, such as paintball guns and gas cannisters, which would usually have been taken in the van to an ‘offsite’ storage unit about a mile away.
Trevor said: “Sam had expressed concerns about leaving equipment onsite. No one else could take it as she had the van. At times Sam felt pressured into doing things she shouldn’t be doing. She was made to feel like she hadn’t done her job properly.”
Operations manager Darren Cliffe deals with health and safety for Delta Force, which has 30 sites across the country, and was Hunt’s manager.
He was on holiday at the time of her death. Cliffe said: “I have never known for the barricades to be moved from A to B. The decision was made without my knowledge.
“I would have said park the van up and get others to help in the morning. I would have preferred to take a hit on a few guns getting stolen.”
The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death.