Death fall stairlift in 'previous incidents'

THE daughter of a 90-year-old Barnsley woman who died after she was thrown downstairs by a faulty stairlift told an inquest it was the third accident involving the company's equipment she was aware of.

Vanessa Faulkner said she knew about two other cases prior to the incident in which her mother Gwendoline Rhymer was tipped headlong down a flight of stairs at her home in Birdwell. She died three days later on July 15 2008.

Mrs Faulkner told the Sheffield inquest she was aware of a similar tipping incident in 2007 and a fatality involving the same model of chair the year before.

But assistant deputy coroner Donald Coutts Wood said the issue of blame was not a matter for the inquest, which was a fact-finding exercise.

He added: "How that came about is not a matter for me, it was either a problem with design, fitting, installation or servicing."

The court heard two experts examined the bolts which held the seat down and found they failed after being repeatedly bent under pressure, because they were loose.

The stairlift was made by Meditek of County Durham and installed by Obam Lift Services on behalf of Barnsley Council.

The court heard three days before the incident Mrs Faulkner had called an engineer because the stairlift was making a whining and juddering noise. But she said no one returned her call.

Meditek director, Phillip Rice, said they had no record of the call.

Derek Nicholson, former Meditek technical director, said the lift was fitted within safe weight limits.

But after the accident they changed the design and "beefed up the steelwork" so they can carry 160kg. Mrs Rhymer weighed 80kg.

Stephen Davis, repairs and maintenance director at Berneslai Homes - Barnsley Council's housing arm - said Meditek no longer supplied them with stairlifts.

Mr Coutts Wood returned a narrative verdict. It said Mrs Rhymer was sitting on the seat of the stairlift and was about to descend with the assistance of her granddaughter Joanne Rhymer when it suddenly tilted as a result of the failure of two seat- levelling bolts.

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