Family's anguish over manhole death
A Luton Town football fan died after plunging head first down a five-feet deep hole dug by water firm workers which did not have barriers properly surrounding it, an inquest has heard.
Dad of two Matthew Wilmot, 40, fell down the hole in a footpath just yards from his Devon Road home after being dropped off by a taxi on May 28 last year, following a night on the town.
His partner of 24 years, Tania Banks, 37, believed he did not see the five-foot deep hole because the plastic barriers surrounding it had been moved.
It is believed Mr Wilmot had been watching the FA Cup final in the hours before his death.
Acting senior coroner at Bedfordshire and Luton Coroner’s Court, Ian Pears, read a pre-written statement by Miss Banks.
It said: “If there was a barrier over the excavation hole, we would not be dealing with the pain we are today.”
“We would always make sure we told each other every day how much we love each other.
“I never in a million years thought that we would never see him again.
“Matt’s death has changed everyone in the family - no one is ever going to be the same again.”
Matthew’s family attended the inquest on Tuesday, at which paramedic for East of England Ambulance Service, Julia Horswell gave evidence.
Ms Horswell described the call received by the ambulance service - in which a woman said that she had seen a man in a hole in the street.
The jury were shown pictures of the hole in which Matthew was found, and the barriers as they were found by the ambulance team.
The barriers - some plastic and some aluminium - surround three sides of the hole, while one side is left open.
Ms Horswell said that she and her colleague found Matthew in the hole “on his back with his chin in his chest, with his legs scrunched above him.”
A spokesman for Bedfordshire Police said the death was not being treated as suspicious.
Miss Banks accused Affinity Water of “escaping blame” after a spokesman initially claimed Mr Wilmot did not die as a result of falling into the site.
The company later retracted the statement and put up tall metal fencing around the site in the five-foot wide sloping path.
Tania previously said that putting up the fencing earlier would have avoided the tragedy, saying: “The barriers shouldn’t have been that easily movable and I cannot believe that there was no plastic board covering the hole.”
Paying tribute to him, the part-time sales assistant said: “He was a roofer and the main bread-winner for our family.
“He liked his football, him and his son were season ticket holders at Luton Town FC.
“He literally done everything for us, he was very much a family man, he loved his kids.”
Matthew left behind his son Liam, 16, and daughter, Lauren, 13.
A spokesman for Affinity Water said at the time: “We can confirm that the body of a man was found in one of our excavations in Devon Road, Luton on Sunday 28 May.
“The police have investigated this incident and have passed their findings on to the coroner.”
The inquest, which is due to last three days, continues at Bedfordshire and Luton Coroner’s court in Ampthill.