Northampton

Carlsberg brewery inquest: Gas 'exploded in David Chandler's face'

David and Laura Chandler Image copyright Laura Chandler
Image caption David Chandler, pictured with his wife Laura, was described at the inquest as a "hard worker" who did not cut corners

A "great blue cloud" of ammonia gas exploded from a pipe at a Carlsberg brewery and into the face of a engineer, an inquest has heard.

David Chandler, 45, from Bridgnorth, Shropshire, died at the plant in Northampton on 9 November 2016 when the leak happened.

A co-worker told Northamptonshire Coroner's Court the gas had escaped from a valve in the compressor unit.

Clive Bignall said: "The ammonia nearly hit me in the face as well."

The operations manager with Speedrite International, a company charged with moving the old compressor as part of an energy efficiency project, said the gas had passed over his shoulder.

Mr Bignall told the inquest jury it had got stuck as he and colleague Stuart Wright tried to move it using an overhead hoist.

Image copyright Northamptonshire Police
Image caption David Chandler had been employed to do the "lifting and shifting" part of removing an old compressor at the Carlsberg brewery

He had been joined by two further colleagues, David Beak and David Chandler.

Mr Bignall told the inquest as they had been preparing to push and pull the compressor, the ammonia had "exploded straight out of the pipe and hit Dave [Chandler] straight in the face".

He said a "great blue cloud of smoke" had come out from a valve on the compressor.

Mr Bignall and Mr Wright had escaped down a flight of stairs.

The inquest also heard evidence from pipe fitter Anthony Warren. He told the jury how three men had run from the scene of the leak.

Image copyright Geograph/Oast House Archive
Image caption Twenty-two people needed hospital treatment following the ammonia leak

"They were just shouting to get out," he said, adding there had been a "big thick cloud" behind them.

Mr Warren had told the inquest he had been at Carlsberg two days before the leak to disconnect the compressor unit.

He had been working with a colleague, Nicholas Dunn, after being given the all clear by refrigeration engineers from Crowley Carbon, the company overseeing the project.

That work involved Crowley Carbon checking the safety of valves in the unit by loosening bolts to open a flange in the system to see if there was any ammonia gas in it.

Mr Warren said on the Friday before the leak he had touched one of those bolts and found it was loose.

However, he said he had double checked this on the following Monday and found the bolts had been tightened.

He also told the jury that neither he nor Mr Dunn had otherwise worked on the bolts. Instead, he said, they had worked further down the system to disconnect the compressor.

The inquest, set to run until July 3, continues.

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