Killer lorry ‘floated like hot air balloon’ in Leeds city centre gale

Pedestrians struggle in windy conditions near the Bridgewater Place building, Leeds.
Pedestrians struggle in windy conditions near the Bridgewater Place building, Leeds.
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A MAN was crushed to death after a lorry “floated through the air like a hot air balloon” in gale-force winds and landed on him in the centre of leeds, an inquest heard today.

Edward Slaney, 35, of Sowerby Bridge, died after being crushed by the truck that was blown off all four wheels in a notoriously windy area near the Bridgewater Place skyscraper on March 10 last year.

The driver of the lorry, Paul Bartle, told Leeds Coroner’s Court he had made his way to the city centre to escape gale-force winds and was driving past the Bridgewater Place building when his lorry was blown on to Mr Slaney and a 22-year-old woman, who were waiting to cross the road.

“I was doing about 20mph, the next thing I remember is I’m on my side,” said Mr Bartle.

“I floated through the air. It just carried me - it was just like a hot air balloon going up.”

Andrew McKenzie, a joiner, told the court he and other bystanders, along with a team of workmen with a digger, helped lift the lorry off Mr Slaney and the woman.

Mr McKenzie said: “As soon as it (the lorry) came out of the shadow of the building, that was when it all went wrong.

“It was mad - it got lifted up like a bit of paper and got thrown across the road.

“I can remember screams, everything seemed to slow down. It was surreal, it wasn’t great.”

Another witness, Paul Pheasey, said in a statement read out in court: “It was as if to compare something to a twister film shown on television.”

After they were freed from the lorry, ambulances took Mr Slaney and the woman to hospital. Mr Slaney, an environmental engineer, died of chest injuries.

The woman survived but sustained serious internal injuries and is now afraid to go outside when it is windy, the inquest heard.

Pc Noel Lowdon told the court that the accident spot had become known for strong winds and that day “freakishly high” speeds of between 67mph and 79mph were recorded at the building.

“There had been reports of strong winds round the base of this building since it was built in 2007,” he said.

Ruth Evans, Mr Slaney’s partner, said in a written statement: “I really miss Ed and I have lost something very special in my life.”

The inquest continues.