Wind ‘took lorry like a hot-air balloon’

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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 top of him, an inquest heard.

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

Lorry driver Paul Bartle told Leeds Coroner’s Court yesterday he was driving past Bridgewater Place when his lorry was blown on to Mr Slaney and 22-year-old Natasha Mahoya, who were waiting to cross the road. He said: “I was doing about 20mph (and) the next thing I remember I’m on my side. I floated through the air. It just carried me – like a hot air balloon going up.”

Andrew McKenzie, a joiner, told how he and other bystanders, along with workmen with a digger, helped lift the lorry off the pair. He said: “It was mad. It got lifted up like a bit of paper and got thrown across the road.

He added: “I can remember screams – everything seemed to slow down.”

After they were freed, ambulances took Mr Slaney and Miss Mahoya to hospital but Mr Slaney, an environmental engineer, died of chest injuries.

Miss Mahoya 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 the area had become known for strong winds and that “freakishly high” speeds of up to 79mph were recorded that day.

The court heard that people had been complaining to Leeds City Council of a “wind-tunnel effect” at Bridgewater Place since 2008.

The inquest continues.