Tragedy of worker’s death

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A HEATING engineer from Scarborough killed himself after he became concerned about a mistake he made at work, an inquest ruled.

Gary Marshall, who was 49, jammed a screwdriver into a switch on a youth hostel’s malfunctioning boiler before becoming distracted and leaving the premises with the screwdriver in place.

The error caused a small amount of gas to seep out of the boiler, and when a female member of the hostel staff pressed the ignition on a separate boiler the following day, it caused a bang which “scared the living daylights out of her”.

When Mr Marshall, of Ridgeway, who was described at the inquest as a “worrier”, learned of his mistake, he decided to take a week’s holiday.

Days later, on March 7, he was found hanging in a shower block at Primrose Valley Caravan Park near Filey, where the company he worked for had a contract.

Mr Marshall’s employer, Stephen Middleton, said that the woman who had ignited the boiler had not been injured and that there had been no threats of action against Mr Marshall from anyone.

“He was very, very good at his job and was very meticulous,” he said. “He was attending to two very old boilers. You have to hold a button down, normally it would take 20 seconds but on this one it took a lot longer.

“He did an old trick by pressing the button in and jamming the screwdriver in, then went to attend to the other boiler. He must have got distracted then went outside and forgotten.”

When the incident with the female staff member at the hostel was reported to Mr Middleton, Mr Marshall returned to the hostel, put a warning sticker on the boiler, but still left the screwdriver in place.

“If he had pulled the screwdriver out no-one would have known about it,” Mr Middleton added. “He had obviously completely forgotten about it.”

Mr Marshall’s blunder was not discovered until a health and safety professional was called in to the hostel and discovered the screwdriver.

“I got a phone call saying health and safety had been out and that there was hell on,” said Mr Middleton. “I asked Gary if he had left it in and he said ‘have I hell’, then he said ‘God, I did’. He was visibly upset.”

Mr Marshall had worked for Mr Middleton for almost 10 years and they had known each other for far longer.

“He would get upset about things,” Mr Middleton said. “If everything was fine he was great but he was inclined to worry too much and let things get him down.”

Peter Slater, a roofer, told the inquest in a statement of the moment he found Mr Marshall’s body.

“I was due to go to the shower block,” he said. “I was informed that a workman was on site. I noticed a work van with Steve Middleton Plumbing on.

“The door to the block was jammed, so I kicked it open. I saw a human body hanging in front of me. There was an electrical cable coming from a trapdoor above.”

Coroner Michael Oakley ruled that Mr Marshall had taken his own life.

He said: “It would appear that he effectively snapped as a result of worrying about what he had done and what the consequences could have been.”