Following the conclusion of Corrie McKeague’s Inquest on 22nd March, Nigel Parsley, Senior Coroner for the Coroner area of Suffolk, has sent a Report to Prevent Future Deaths (PFD) to the British Standards Institute, The Container Handling Equipment Manufacturers Association, Dennis Eagle Ltd. (manufacturer of refuse collection trucks) and Biffa Waste Services Ltd.
A Coroner legally has the power to write a report following an Inquest to people or organisations that they believe are in a position to take action to reduce the risk of a death occurring in similar circumstances in the future. Recipients of the report must reply in 56 days detailing the action they intend to take.
The jury at the Inquest into the death of Corrie McKeague, who went missing after a night out in Bury St Edmunds in September 2016, found the cause of death to be ‘compression asphyxia in association with multiple injuries’.
CCTV footage last pictured Corrie walking into the horseshoe area behind some shops in Bury. In that area were a number of commercial size waste bins. A waste bin which was collected from the rear of Greggs bakers weighed significantly more than normal, leading to the hypothesis that Corrie, due to impaired judgement resulting from alcohol consumption, could have been in the bin.
The Coroner was prompted to request a PFD due to his ongoing concerns of the significant and fatal risks to people in bins. The Inquest had heard evidence from a Biffa representative that over a period of six years there were 740 incidents of people in bins.
The Coroner listed four concerns in the PFD: ‘Ineffective bin locks’, ‘Ineffective search of the bin’, ‘Any driver not having the means to search the bin thoroughly or safely’ and ‘Poor visibility through the Perspex viewing window on the lorry’.
The locks were described as ‘not robust’ and ‘due to their design the locks were also frequently broken’. The Coroner stated that if stronger locks are fitted, the number of reported incidents of people in bins (10 a week) is likely to be reduced.
In reference to the poor visibility that it is physically impossible to undertake a check of the hopper mechanism on the Biffa lorry as the viewing aperture window is too high. Secondly, on the six-year-old vehicle in question, the Perspex had become opaque.
Craig Knightley of Tees Law, the solicitors representing the family, said:
“The family are grateful for the diligence of the Jury who heard extensive evidence over two weeks before coming to their conclusion.
“The fact that there were over 740 incidents over a six year period of people in bins, with the obvious and significant risks, including fatality, indicate that this was a tragedy waiting to happen.
“The family would like to thank the Coroner not only for his compassion throughout the inquest but in preparing the PFD reports, they genuinely hope that the raising of these ongoing concerns, at the very highest level, will lead to changes within the industry that will hopefully further reduce the serious risk to people in bins.”