A MAN died in circumstances a coroner described as “probably rarer than being struck by lightning or a meteorite” when he became trapped in the rungs of an indoor clothes airer and suffocated himself.
Bradford father-of-two Brian Depledge, 38, died in the incident on February 1 when he fell backwards onto the clothes horse, causing the drier to collapse and lodge his head between the rails.
An inquest heard that his desperate efforts to free himself only made the compression worse, creating a “cat’s cradle effect”.
Coroner Prof Paul Marks, recording a verdict of accidental death at the hearing on Thursday, said: “I have never come across a case like this. Brian’s was an untimely death caused by the most bizarre set of circumstances - probably rarer than being struck by lightning or struck by a meteorite. It’s an extremely rare cause of death.”
Det Insp Mark Long, of Bradford CID, said Mr Depledge appeared to attempt to untangle himself from the airer by putting his right arm through one of the segments, but by pushing down on the bars it tightened the grip “like a concertina”.
Asked by Mr Depledge’s daughter Shawni Murgatroyd how her father could have fallen backwards, Det Insp Long suggested that he could have tripped over a small stool in his living room, which was found at his feet.
He added that when Brian was found, the clothes at the top of the airer were still wet, which would have put even more pressure on his neck.
Dr Philip Batman, a consultant pathologist who carried out the post-mortem, said that the effects of the incident would be similar to hanging.
“It’s absolutely bizarre,” he said. “Mr Depledge was found in his living room with the clothes horse on top of him and blood on his face.
“He appeared to have fallen and got stuck between the rungs of the airer. The drier gave way, but Brian’s struggles to release himself would have resulted in more suffocation.
“Deep indentations were found on his chest on the right hand side, along with an indentation on the right side of his neck.
“His lungs were congested with excess fluid, which is consistent with asphyxiation as a cause of death.”
After the case, Shawni, 18, said: “It’s just so bizarre. He was a lovely person, very easy going, and he absolutely loved his Xbox - we used to joke that he loved it more than he loved us.
“He was meant to be giving me away at my wedding in April, so it was hard to get through the day without him.
“We always had a joke that he would kick me down the aisle to get rid of me, so
I thought to myself on the day, if I trip on the way, I’ll know he’s there with me.
“And even though I didn’t fall, I still know he was there for me on the day.”
Shawni’s brother, Ryan, 11, who suffers from hydrocephalitis, is finding it hard to come to terms with his father’s death.
“I don’t think it’s really sunk in with him. He keeps asking ‘When can I see my dad, I want to see my dad’,” Shawni’s grandmother, June Evans, said.
“I just tell him, your dad is here with you in your heart and he always will be.”