Father Burned to Death in Oven as Future Son-in-Law Mistakenly Switches it On

By on November 20, 2014

A grandfather burned to death inside an industrial oven that baked plastic at up to 280 degrees after he became trapped and the machine was turned on by his future son-in-law, a court heard.

Alan Catterall, 54, from Runcorn, Cheshire, had gone into the oven to fix a fault when operator Mark Francis, not realising he was still working inside, switched the machine on and locked him in.

Mr Francis was engaged to Mr Catterall’s eldest daughter, the jury was told.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that because there was no alarm Mr Catterall tried to escape using a crowbar but because of the noisy working environment no one heard his cries for help.

Colleagues at Pyranha Mouldings Ltd only discovered ‘the problem was when smoke started seeping out of the oven,’ the jury heard.

The father-of-three died after suffering severe burns and shock following the incident on 23 December 2010. The company’s oven was used to make kayaks.

Pyranha is now on trial charged with corporate manslaughter with the directors and a self-employed engineer facing charges related to health and safety breaches.

Andrew Thomas, QC, prosecuting, said: ‘The circumstances of Mr Catterall’s death are quite horrific.

‘On the morning of the accident a fault had developed in one of the ovens and it was out of action for about an hour whilst repair work was carried out.

‘The initial fault was fixed and one of the operators turned the machine back on.

‘Tragically, what the operator did not realise was that Mr Catterall was still working inside the oven.

‘The design of the oven was such that the moment it was switched on its power-operated doors shut and automatically locked with metal bolts on the outside.

‘Mr Catterall was trapped within the oven. There was no means of escape and no alarm.

‘The oven is lined with insulation material, and on the noisy factory floor, there was no chance of anyone hearing his cries for help.

‘After a preparation cycle lasting several minutes, the burners were turned on and the oven was raised to operating temperature.

‘The evidence indicates that Mr Catterall made efforts to escape using a metal crow bar, but it was to no avail.

‘He suffered severe burns and died as a result of shock. The first anyone knew about the problem was when smoke started seeping out of the oven.’

Mr Catterall grew up in Liverpool and worked at a tyre factory in Speke before joining the Ford factory in Halewood where he worked for many years.

He joined Pyranha in 1997 and was promoted to team leader at the company – which had between 90 and 100 employees – where his wife Pearl and daughter also worked.

The company managing director Graham Mackereth, 64, from Runcorn, his brother and technical director Peter Mackereth, 59, from Llangollen, Wales, and self-employed electrical engineer Paul Keddie, from Wales, who designed the ovens, all deny health and safety breaches.


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