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Wellington Journal, Saturday August 2nd 1940


Two men met their death at Buildwas on Friday when they were buried by a fall of sand in a sandpit, where they were working. They where John Bruce age 66 of Wyre Hill, Buildwas and John Hewlett Heath aged 22 of 154 Salthouse Road, Jackfield. Nobody saw the accident and the rescue work was rendered extremely hazardous by the further falls of sand in the pit as the bodies were dug out.

Criticism of the method of loading the sand into the lorry was made at the inquest. It was stated that the lorry was standing broadside on to the face of the sand pit, and the men appeared to have been working between the vehicle and the face, loading it with sand. The Wellington Coroner, Mr. J. V. T. Lander, said that for the safety of workers in such employment it was better to have lorries at right-angles to the face, so that the men would have a better chance of getting away in case of a fall.

Mr. E. Rowley, H.M. Divisional Inspector of Mines, said that many accidents had been caused in this way. He would like to point out, he said, the desirability of working the face in "benches," or maintaining such a "batter" that a fall of that description could not occur.

The inquest was opened at Iron-Bridge on Saturday, when Joseph Bruce, foreman bricklayer, identified the body of Bruce as that of his father, and John Heath identified the body of Heath as that of his son, who, he said, was employed by Mrs. Bruce as a lorry driver engaged in loading and delivering sand.

When the inquest was resumed on Tuesday Ellen Mabel Binnersley, domestic servant employed by Mrs. Bruce, told how she discovered that there had been an accident as she was going home from work. Her way lay past the sand pit, which was in Station Road, and when she got near it she noticed a lorry standing alongside the sand face. It was covered with sand. She could not see anyone with it. While she was looking at the lorry some more sand fell from the face and completely smothered it. She knew that Mr Bruce had been working in the sand pit, so she ran for assistance.

Edward Lewis, bailiff, of Abbey Lodge, Buildwas is, said that he was standing outside his home at about 4 p.m. when the previous witness came running down the road. When he heard what had happened he sent his wife to telephone the police, and telling his daughter to bring her first aid outfit he set out for the sand pit. When he got there he found the lorry covered with sand except for one side. He shouted "Jack, where are you?" but got no reply.

At the sand pit he was joined by William Henry Ruck, crossing keeper at Buildwas, and together they climbed over the lorry. When they got to the other side they saw the forearm of a man sticking out of the sand. They started to scratch the sand away and presently found the body of Bruce. Leaving Ruck to hold Bruce's head above the sand, Lewis dashed off for further help. There were some men working about 100 yards away on the railway line, and between 30 and 40 of them came along. "They worked hard and well in removing the sand," said Lewis.

They eventually found the body of Heath beside the motor lorry.


Submitted by Ivor Brown

Note: The incident occurred on 25th July 1940, with the inquest opening on the Saturday 26thOctober, then resuming on Tuesday 29th July.

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