Miner fell to his death ‘for the sake of a few pounds’

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The pit
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The family of a pitworker killed when he fell down a shaft at Maltby Colliery say he lost his life “for the sake of a few pounds”.

Jackie Fisher plunged 60ft down the shaft at the end of his shift because there was no lock on a gate leading to the pit cage which he was about to enter to get to the surface.

Mines inspectors have been unable to establish when the lock ceased to be operational.

The jury at a Rotherham inquest yesterday returned a narrative verdict, stating Mr Fisher, aged 52, of Kennington Grove, Edlington, died on December 7, 2009, when he fell because the lower level of the cage was not in line with the lower landing.

Coroner Nicola Mundy said there was no statutory requirement for an interlocking gate to prevent recurrences of the fatality, but said she is writing to HM Chief Inspector of Mines saying action should be taken to prevent deaths in other mines.

Maltby Colliery has since fitted an interlocking gate.

Afterwards Mr Fisher’s son, Christopher, said: “If the locking mechanism on the day of the accident had been working instead of being allowed to fall into disrepair this tragic accident would not have happened – and for the sake of a few pounds we would still have Jack.

“Dad was a hard working and good family man who is dearly missed.

“He had just finished a 12-hour shift and if this mine had taken proper care this accident would not have happened.”

During three days of evidence, the jury was told Mr Fisher was an experienced mineworker whose job as on onsetter meant he was in control of the cage in number two shaft from the pit bottom.

He was coming towards the end of his shift when the onsetter for the night shift descended in the cage, which is on three decks.

When it arrived a defect on the hydraulic system was discovered, which meant the platform which should have linked the lift to the Parkgate level could not be lowered. So Mr Fisher’s replacement, Glen Hanson, had to climb onto a girder on the lower level and then up a ladder to get to the right level to start his shift.

Mr Hanson went about his duties and it was a few minutes later when he became aware Mr Fisher had not reached the surface.

When he searched the pit bottom he found him lying on a girder about 65ft down the shaft below the case.

Mr Fisher was already dead when help reached him. A pathologist stated he would have died instantly.

It has never been established what caused him to fall down the shaft because there were no witnesses.

The inquest was told the lighting near the lower deck of the cage was poor because two lightbulbs were out, and the two remaining lights were partly obscured by coal dust.