Tesco fall death ruled accidental
Elderly man slipped in puddle at Chalfont store which was known to have problems with a leaking roof
Derek Lovett, 91, fell backwards, hit his head on the floor and suffered a cardiac arrest.
The retired pharmaceutical chemist of Birkett Way, Chalfont St Giles, was rushed to Wexham Park Hospital were he was pronounced dead at 12.39pm on May 29 this year.
The jury in the three-day inquest which finished yesterday (Wednesday) was told staff at the Tesco store were aware of the leaking roof.
Witness Susie Motion described how she heard a noise which she thought was Mr Lovett’s head hitting the floor and rushed into the next aisle.
“I got there at around 11.30am and after this I heard a noise from that aisle,” she said. “There was a lot of blood on the floor.”
She added: “It was when I bent down near him I looked around and saw the water.
“Once I’d been sat down by him for a little while I glanced round, that was when I noticed the dripping from the ceiling.”
Kanaganayagam Shanthakumar, team leader at the store, opened up the shop that day. He said it had been raining heavily that morning.
He added the store occasionally has problems with leaks from the ceiling and at some point between 9am and 10am that morning had mopped up a leak at the end of the second aisle and placed a bucket underneath to catch the drips.
But Mr Shanthakumar said he was not aware of any leak in the aisle where Mr Lovett fell.
He said: “I had cleaned up the leak and, in all my time working here, I had not been aware of the leak around where the man was lying, and I was not aware of any problem there.”
Describing the moment he found Mr Lovett he said: “I could see blood which seemed to be coming from the back of his head, between his head and the floor.”
Customer assistant Peter Cobden was the only staff member in the store front at the time of the incident.
He said he was told of a leak by a customer but assumed it was the one which Mr Shanthakumar had cleaned up.
It was only when another woman told him there was a man lying on the floor did he leave the tills where he was working.
He said company policy was that he was not allowed to leave the tills until there was another member of staff to replace him.
“A lady came up to me and said ‘man down, man down, there’s water on the floor’,” he said.
“I saw there was a man lying on the floor. There was blood coming out of the side of his head.
“There was a large puddle of water and blood was going into the water.”
He added: “I do know that there had been lots of problems with leaks.”
Mr Cobden added: “Blood was coming out the back of his head. He wasn’t moving. I could see it was a very serious injury.”
Son-in-law Jonathan Wilmot said Mr Lovett had been excited about his trip to Tesco to buy fudge and toffee.
He told the jury he had seen water dripping from the ceiling near to where his father in law had slipped.
Mr Wilmot described Mr Lovett as ‘irritatingly ordered’ and ‘bright as a button’,able to walk without his stick for half a mile.
Dr Duncan Dymond, consultant cardiologist, said: “I believe that it’s very probable that the late Mr Lovett sustained a severe emotional shock or fright from his fall, leading to the cardiac arrest.”
Assistant Coroner Crispin Giles Butler said: “This pool of water was not the same leak that Mr Kumar had mopped up some two hours earlier.”
The jury reached its conclusion yesterday (Wednesday) after a three day inquest and recorded a verdict of accidental death.
Mr Wilmot said that he has subsequently bought the fudge and toffee that Mr Lovett went to buy.
“It still hangs in the kitchen at home, as a reminder of the wonderful man,” he said.
After the inquest, a Tesco spokesman said: “We are saddened by the tragic death of Mr Lovett and once again send our condolences to his family and friends.
“We take our responsibilities to keep customers and colleagues safe in our stores very seriously, and we recognise that Mr Lovett entered our store and died on our premises. For this we are deeply sorry.”