Sheffield man died in explosion at factory near Meadowhall

A father died in a tragic accident when a gas cylinder exploded at his place of work, an inquest has heard.

Tuesday, 2nd February 2016, 2:55 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd February 2016, 3:05 pm
Chesterfield Cylinders on Meadowhall where a man died in an industrial accident Picture by Dean Atkins

John William Townsend, aged 64, of Ashleigh Avenue, Gleadless had been working as a maintenance engineer at Chesterfield Cylinders Limited, Meadowhall Road, for several years when the fatal accident happened on June 10 last year.

Sheffield Coroner’s Court heard Mr Townsend had been carrying out a leak test on number of cylinders. He had filled the eight cylinders with high pressure gas and was in the process of venting them, having found no evidence of leaks, when the explosion occurred.

He was struck by a metal shard, which caused what Dr Naomi Carter, a forensic pathologist, called ‘catastrophic internal blood loss.’ Despite efforts by colleagues and paramedics, who quickly arrived at the scene, Mr Townsend was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

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The firm, ‘a world-leading provider of bespoke, high-pressure gas containment solutions’, produces cylinders for a range of clients in a range of sizes, with contain the pressure of between 100 and 200 times that of a car tyre, sometimes 500.

The inquest heard Mr Townsend worked in an ‘ultra large testing area’ and was one of only a small number of staff qualified to carry out the procedure.

Michael Cunningham, his team leader told the inquest, including a jury of seven women and one man, that Mr Townsend was a skilled worker.

“I had been moved to another area that day, but I had a discussion with John earlier in the day about how far along we were with the process of pressure and vent checking,” he said.

“He said we were on schedule for what we were expected to do and he was going to start the venting process that afternoon. I went to work about 30 yards away from where he was. I heard a loud boom and looked up to see what had happened. You get used to some loud booms in this job, you get to know what they are, but this noise was out of the ordinary.

“When I looked over to where John has been working, all I could see was dust and paper flying up in the air. I could see John was laid on the floor outside of the caged test area. Other colleagues had gone over and one said he could see John was bleeding. I called an ambulance.”

Mr Cunningham said he had no concerns about Mr Townsend’s work and there was no pressure to work quickly.

The inquest continues.