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Judge and grieving family blast businessman over exploding wheel death tragedy

Published date: 12 August 2014 |
Published by: Free Press Reporter
Read more articles by Free Press Reporter


 

A BUSINESSMAN has come under fire from a grieving family.
 
On Monday, Denbigh businessman David Geoffrey Sanders was convicted of a health and safety charge following the death of an employee.
 
Following the convictions at Mold Crown Court, the family of Kenneth Cooke said that Sanders, 70,  had shown no or very little remorse, respect or dignity.
 
Son Karl Cooke, in a statement on behalf of the family, said that he had “needlessly dragged them through the harrowing experience of having a crown court trial”.
 
Mr Cooke had worked at The Sanders Machinery Yard for more than 20 years.
He was 62 when he died and leaves a widow Sue, son Karl and daughter Melanie, and his sister Linda Walters.
 
“We had this court case looming for three years,” Karl explained outside the court.
In the statement, he said: “My family and friends have endured a very difficult time while Mr Sanders carried on with no, or very little, remorse, respect of dignity towards myself or my family.
 
“He has needlessly dragged us through the harrowing experience of a crown court trial when he could have just held his hand up and took some form of responsibility for his actions as an employer.”
 
Sanders, convicted of a health and safety charge after Mr Cooke was killed when a crane wheel he was dismantling exploded “like a bomb”, was criticised by the trial judge for prolonging the ordeal for the victim’s family by having “a wholly
unnecessary” trial.
 
Mr Cooke, 62, from Pentre Llanrhaeadr, suffered catastrophic injuries from which he died at his workplace in Denbigh, as he used cutting equipment to separate the split rim wheel while the tyre was still inflated.
 
Sanders Machinery Ltd of Graig Road in Denbigh, and its director David Geoffrey Sanders, denied failing to ensure the safety of Mr Cooke following the fatality in 2011.
 
Both were unanimously convicted by the jury after a retirement of a little more than an hour on Monday and yesterday morning, Sanders was personally convicted of obstructing a health and safety inspector by providing him with a copy of a risk assessment which he held out as his own when it related to another company.
 
Judge Rhys Rowlands, sitting at Mold Crown Court, adjourned sentence until next month.
 
He told Sanders that he had been convicted on “quite compelling evidence”.
 
“Quite why you failed to recognise as much and tried during the trial to suggest that you had done everything that could have been reasonably expected of you, and that the accident was down to the deceased, only you will know.”
 
The defendant, he said, had shown “a total lack of contrition”
 
He added: “There has been a total lack of remorse on your part.
 
“I have seen very little by way of real, genuine remorse,” he said.
 
But there was a great deal of evidence of the wholly inadequate way he ran his yard which should have led to a guilty plea.
 
“It is plain to me that you did not have the first idea about what health and safety entails and the consequences for Mr Cooke turned out to be fatal.”
 
Judge Rowlands said that he was “quite concerned” that the defence had put before the jury photographs showing the site in pristine condition “where you could virtually eat your meal of the floor”.
 
They did not reflect the condition of the yard at the time of the death, he said. It seemed to follow on from the obstruction charge when Sanders passed on risk assessment documents as his own.
 
“I don’t understand why he chose to do it,” he said.
 
“I find it very odd indeed that another businessman chose to send him these documents within hours of the accident. It is not what I would have expected.”
 
The judge ordered that the defence produce three years of accounts for the sentencing hearing on September 9.
 
During the week-long trial, prosecuting barrister Andrew Green alleged that the machinery yard operated in a health and safety vacuum,
 
It had been like telling the victim to go and work on an unexploded bomb with a pair of pliers, cut some wires and she what happened, he told the jury in his closing speech.
 
“He died at work while carrying out his duties in the defendant’s steel and machinery yard,” he said.
 
The yard had been in existence for many years but over time it had become “disorganised, cluttered and dangerous”, Mr Green alleged.
 
It was the prosecution case that the defendant had failed to take simple and inexpensive measures to eradicate the risk to Mr Cooke.
 
The large crane wheel which Mr Cooke was dismantling on March 14, 2011, had been removed from the axle by Sanders previously.
 
It had not been deflated when Mr Cooke - who was untrained -  was in the process of using oxy-acetylene cutters to burn off the centre bolts which held the two split rims together.
 
They gave way “instantly and without warning” leaving Mr Cooke without any chance of avoiding the consequences.
 
The rim struck him to the chest, causing catastrophic injuries.
 
What investigators discovered were “accidents waiting to happen”, he alleged.

For more news from across the region visit newsnorthwales.co.uk

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