By Jessica Best
GWENT’S coroner has asked Newport city council to review mechanical hoists it installs in disabled people's homes following the death of a paraplegic man who became trapped while trying to move on to his bed.
Newport coroner’s court heard yesterday how Michael Powell, 53, died at his Newport home in January last year after becoming entangled in a mechanical ceiling hoist.
But Gwent coroner David Bowen said Mr Powell, who lived alone, could have been saved if he had had an emergency panic button to summon help.
Mr Powell, of Pontfaen Road, Newport, lost the use of his legs in a speedway accident in 1975. In 2000 he had ceiling hoists installed in his bedroom and bathroom organised by Monwell Hankinson - a department of Newport city council which provides support for disabled people.
Mechanical engineer Jamie Davies told the coroner and a jury the hoists were not designed to be used without the help of a carer, and although Mr Powell was living with his wife when they were installed, he continued using the hoists alone after the couple divorced in 2002.
On January 21 2008, Mr Powell was using the hoist to move from his wheelchair to his bed when the hand held control panel fell off the cord attaching it to the mechanical lift.
Mr Powell could no longer move the hoist, and ergonomics expert Jeremy Ferreira said it was likely that, in an effort to reach the detached control panel, Mr Powell had “inverted” himself in his seat and become trapped.
A post mortem showed Mr Powell died as a result of positional asphyxia and alcohol intoxication, and tests showed he had a blood alcohol level of 212 per cent - more than two and a half times the drink drive limit of 80 per cent.
Pathologist Dr Ian Thompson said this high level of alcohol could have contributed to Mr Powell’s breathing problems.
After the jury returned a verdict of accidental death, Mr Bowen said he would be writing to Newport city council urging them to carry out an immediate assessment of all disabled people using hoists without carers' assistance, stressing anyone using the hoists alone should be given emergency call buttons.
A spokesman for Newport city council said a review was already under way for disabled people living alone who used hoists, and would await any further recommendations from the coroner.
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