Tribute to Gravesend construction worker Liam McArdle killed in accident at Erith Plant Hire in Ebbsfleet Quary

The grieving girlfriend of a young construction worker who was killed when heavy machinery fell on him at work has paid tribute to his ‘kind-hearted’ partner.

Liam McArdle, from Gravesend, died last year while working in Ebbsfleet Quarry, the site of a major garden townhouse development.

Construction worker Liam McArdle and his girlfriend Kylie Barden. Photo: Kylie Barden

Paramedics and police attended the Erith Group workshop on A296 Watling Street, near Bean, Dartford, on September 21, but the 24-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr. McArdle was assisting co-workers using heavy machinery with loading and unloading work when he was struck by a hoisting attachment which detached from an excavator and rolled onto the back of a low load trailer.

A medical cause of death was given as “multiple injuries”.

An inquest into the court man’s death took place at the Shepway Center in Maidstone this week as a jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

North West Kent Deputy Coroner Alan Blunsdon described the ‘tragic case’, adding: ‘It appears Liam was working in the back of the low bed trailer.

Construction worker Liam McArdle died in an accident at Ebbsfleet quarry
Construction worker Liam McArdle died in an accident at Ebbsfleet quarry

“As a workman began to lower the demolition grapple [an excavator attachment] he fell off the end of the trailer, rolled over and ended up running over Liam and causing fatal injuries.

Mr McArdle, of Winters Croft, Gravesend, was employed by Erith Plant Services Ltd and had worked for two years at the company’s quarry site near the Ebbsfleet Castle Hill development.

The inquest jury saw footage of when he was struck by the attachment causing the fatal injuries.

They heard a series of testimonies on health and safety issues related to the site, including exclusion zones, walkways and technical aspects related to the operation of excavators.

The members of the jury were also informed that the proper functioning of these machines was often left to the discretion of each employee.

The inquest into Mr McArdle's death took place at the Shepway Center in Maidstone.  Photo: Sean Delaney
The inquest into Mr McArdle’s death took place at the Shepway Center in Maidstone. Photo: Sean Delaney

They heard Andrew James Reeve, who was driving the excavator at the time of the fatal accident. He said he has since been fired for gross misconduct.

He said: “I remember taking the machine out in the morning. After that, the first thing I remember is a scream coming from the back of the trailer after unloading. I jumped out of the machine and found Liam.

Asked by the coroner what caused the incident, he replied: “He shouldn’t have moved – I still don’t know to this day why or how.”

The construction worker told the inquest that a convoy of forklift operators were working in the area, including Mr McArdle.

He said he was unaware of Mr McArdle’s presence behind the shovel – which had several blind spots – which was against safety rules, the jury heard.

“He shouldn’t have moved, I still don’t know to this day why or how.”

Had he known, Mr Reeve claimed he would have stopped working immediately and chided his younger colleague, adding: ‘He knows I would have let him have it.’

The former lorry driver, who also worked alongside Mr McArdle’s father on site, added: “I treated Liam like my own boy. Liam was a good boy.

Thorough investigations were carried out by the police who ruled out any “third party involvement”.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is still ongoing.

The independent regulator told the court it found no mechanical faults with either the machinery or its attachments.

Mr McArdle was fatally injured while working on a construction site near Bean
Mr McArdle was fatally injured while working on a construction site near Bean

The 10-person jury concluded that the death was an accident.

Mr Blunsdon expressed his condolences to the family, adding: “This is a tragic and heartbreaking case not only because the family have to relive the facts but because of the photographic evidence we have shown in court.

“I understand how painful it must be to hear the evidence. I’m sure Liam would have been proud of you to be here to hear the evidence given here today.”

Speaking after the hearing, his partner Kylie Barden, also from Gravesend, paid tribute to “good-hearted” Liam.

The couple first struck up a friendship before dating and have taken various trips together across the UK, most recently to Yorkshire and Blackpool.

“He was such a generous person, he always had time for anyone,” the 20-year-old said. “If I had a bad day, he would often surprise me.”

Kylie also explained how Liam was a car enthusiast and had a passion for modified vehicles.

On her first birthday since her death, she helped organize a car meet at their “special place” on Blue Bell Hill for friends to pay their respects.

Kylie added, “I loved him and would do anything to get him back.”

Alice F. Ponder