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(B.Post) Retired builder died falling 25ft from Park Hostel roof

Thursday 22 September 2016

By L Churchill
Retired builder John Switalski suffered unsurvivable head injuries when he fell 25ft off a ladder. A retired builder suffered unsurvivable head injuries when he fell 25ft off a ladder. John Switalski was thought to have been clearing the guttering or doing work to a roof when the ladder slipped. Avon Coroner's Court heard no one saw the tragic accident, which took place at the Park Hostel in Mina Road, St Werburghs where he lived. The coroner was told he carried out maintenance to the hostel where the 67-year-old had lived for many years. He had climbed up onto a flat roof before putting a ladder up when it slipped and he fell on October 17, last year.

Robert Hughes, who also lived and worked in the accommodation, told the coroner: "I was in my room which is at the back of the hostel and I head John climb up the roof and climb up the ladder. "I heard the ladder fall and next thing I knew he had fallen off the roof. I came out of my room to see what had happened and John was lying face down on the ground. I think he was climbing up the ladder and the ladder slipped, but I didn't see it." Mr Hughes said he agreed with a doctor's estimation that he had fallen around 25ft. Asked by the coroner if he knew why Mr Switalski had been up the ladder, Mr Hughes replied: "No, I have no idea."

Steven Smith, who also lived at the hostel, said Mr Switalski used to carry out maintenance to the building. "He used to go onto the roof either to clear the guttering out or do maintenance to the roof," Mr Smith told the coroner. "When he did he would put the ladder outside my window and tap on the window.He tapped the window and then I heard the ladder slide to the side of the flat roof and he had gone over the side. I didn't see him falling, but obviously hard. I ran downstairs shouting 'get an ambulance'. I didn't try to touch him or move him because I could see blood by his head. I must admit I did a lot of swearing, but I just stayed with him. He had fallen in the recovery position. I kept talking to him, telling him to keep breathing. "I'm pretty sure he was on the ladder as it slid - it went to the side that was nearest to the edge (of the roof). It would have been 20 to 25ft, about one-and-a-half storeys."

The coroner's court heard how an ambulance was called and paramedics took Mr Switalski to Southmead Hospital at around 4pm. Dr MacFarlane from the Emergency Department said when examining Mr Switalski it was clear his head injuries were unsusvivable. Coroner Maria Voison said he had died the following day and concluded it was an accidental death. Speaking after the inquest, Mr Switalski's brother Andre said he was "very fit and healthy" at the time of his sad death. He added that Mr Switalski, who previously played amateur football in the city, would be "very much missed" by all his siblings, including his sister Jenny who he was very close to.


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