FATAL ACCIDENT TO A
CHILD ON WHITEHAVEN DOCK.
About 4-35 p.m. on Thursday last, a sad accident occurred near the Harbour Office, Whitehaven, when a little boy named Wm. Fleming SALMON, aged 3 years 9 months, of 14, Union Terrace, Peter-street, Whitehaven, was playing with his brother, Thos. Edward, aged six years, and John BOWMAN, and John HESLOP, two small boys.
It appears that Thos. Edward SALMON had gane down the steps beside the dock office, on to the shore beneath, and that his brother was going to follow him when the latter fell from the top of the steps and landed on the stones below, a distance of between thirty and forty feet. He was cut on the right side of the head and rendered unconscious. He was picked up by Jos. HUMES, engineman of Strand-street, and handed over to Wm. BULTY, craneman living at BURNS’s lodging house, and with the assistance of Edward BOWNESS, labourer, Winter’s Place, Queen-street, and Jas. WIGNALL, coal trimmer, 14, George Street, was taken to the infirmary. He remained in his unconscious state and died at the Infirmary at 2-25 on Tuesday morning.
The inquest was held in the Infirmary on Wednesday morning by the Coroner, Mr. E. ATTER and a jury, of which Councillor R. WILSON was chosen foreman.
John Cornelius SALMON, 14, Union-terrace, Peter-street, Whitehaven, a Post-Office Wireman, said he was the father of the deceased, Wm. Fleming SALMON, who was three years and nine months old. On Thursday last he saw the deceased last about six o’clock in the morning before he went away. It would take the lad about a quarter of an hour to get from the house to the dock. He was upstairs all day with his mother, who was cleaning. They had no relations on the docks.
The Coroner: Then how was it that a lad at this age should be on such an exposed place as the dock, where the engines are running?
Witness: Well, three little boys, Deceased’s brother, John BOWMAN, John HESLOP were rather fond of deceased and used to take him with them. The boy’s brother, Thomas Edward, was six years of age and the other two boys were seven.
The Coroner: You, as a father, do you think that these boys, one six and the others seven, were controllable of a lad nearly four years old?
Witness: No, sir. Witness said that the lad was not in a habit of going to the dock.
The Coroner: You see he had to go along the roads where motors and other things were going along. Peter-street is a long way off the dock, for this child to be there. He has gone through a good many risks before getting to the docks.
The father said the child was not twenty-five minutes from home until word was brought that the accident had happened. The other boy, Thomas Edward, was not hurt, but he often felt bad, and seemed to be afraid with seeing the lad fall. He had not recovered from the shock, and had to be taken out so that his mind might be occupied. After the accident the father saw the boy sitting on the infirmary steps. It had been the father’s full advice to the children not to go down to the docks.
The foreman: There is a beck runs through an arch, and the little children go to the place to see the water running. They lie under the railings holding by the latter, and watch the water. The railings are too near the quaysi8de, and they should be put back a bit.
Jos. HUME, 13, Strand-street, Whitehaven, a crane driver, said he was on the docks with a man called Wm. NULTY when the accident happened. This would be about twenty-five minutes to five. They saw about four children playing near the steps. One little boy had his hands on the railings, and was on the top step when he fell to the shore below. Witness and NULTY ran to the place and put the boy on his back. The boy did not scream nor say anything, and just breathed a little. He was laying on his face when they got to him, and was stretched out. He had sat about ten minutes on the step before he fell. He had fallen between the rocks, and blood was running from the right side of the head. Witness handed the lad to NULTY, and a man off the dock who took him to the infirmary.
The Coroner: Who was the man?
Witness: Ned BOWNESS.
The Coroner: I happened to be at a meeting at the infirmary and I saw the man running with the child, and the way he was carrying him was most commendable. If he had been here I certainly would have said a word to him for the way he carried this lad.
The lad’s father said the place where the accident happened was a very dangerous one. He had chased children away from the place and had to clout them.
The Coroner: And then you only get insolence and abuse.
Wm. NULTY, Swingpump-lane, a crane driver, said he was with the last witness when the accident happened. The lad had his hands on the railings, and was swinging when he lost his hold and fell down. It had been raining that day, but it was fair then. The lad might have slipped. He had fallen on the concrete below the steps. There was no wind to blow him over, and no one shoved him.
Sergt. PRICE said he took the measurements of the place. There were 18 steps from the top to the bottom, and a height of 21 ft. 9 inches. When the tide was out the lad would fall on hard ground, and the fall would not be broken by water. It was a place where children were in the habit of gathering together.
The Coroner: It is a dangerous, risky place?
Witness: There is a fence and steps to go down. There are railings on one side of the steps, but not on the other.
The deceased’s hat which he had been wearing was produced, and showed blood inside the hat on the right-hand side, which showed on which side the lad had fallen. The father said he took a bulge out of the hat where the bloodstains were. There was no blood on the hat before the accident.
Dr. SHARPE, surgeon at the infirmary, said the deceased was brought in about five o’clock on the 17th inst. There was a mark on the skull on the right side of the head, and the knees were grazed. He was unconscious, his eyes blackened a short time afterwards.
The Coroner: In falling this distance of 21 feet onto the rocks below, would the injuries he received be consistent with the fall?
The doctor said the lad rallied about two or three hours on Sunday, but was not altogether conscious. The cause of death would be due to a fractured skull.
The Coroner, summing up, said he was inclined to think that the parents should not have allowed the child to be so far away from home and so long absent. He supposed children would get out. With regard to the danger of the place of the accident, one could not guard and protect every place against children. If something ought be done and the harbour authorities could do anything to prevent any repetition of this or minimise any danger, he was sure they would do so.
The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the doctor’s evidence, the foreman adding that the water was the attraction at this place, and children would go there. He would have added that the railings were too near the quayside.
The Coroner: Well, we can make a communication with the harbour authorities that the jury would be pleased if they could do anything to prevent accidents like this occurring, and that the jury would leave the matter in their hands.