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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 December 2007, 16:30 GMT
Pallbearers 'refused coffin lift'
Coffin (generic)
The coffin was wheeled into the Cambridgeshire church
A war veteran's coffin was pushed into a church on a squeaky trolley "without dignity" because pallbearers feared risking injury, his son has said.

Colin Blackwell, of Kelvedon, Essex, said his family was disgusted when the coffin bearing Eric, 89 - who weighed about nine stone - was jolted around.

Mr Blackwell said funeral directors C E Fuller & Co of Soham, Cambs, said it was for health and safety reasons.

The funeral directors was unavailable for comment.

Eric Blackwell, of Burwell, Cambs, a former World War II private and factory foreman died of pneumonia in May.

'Hiding behind laws'

His funeral was held at the Methodist Burwell Trinity Church.

"It was pretty dreadful. You only get the chance to do this once and you want to do it properly," Mr Blackwell, 58, said.

"I don't know whether it's health and safety gone mad or just the fact the funeral directors are hiding behind the laws."

"If we had known he would be brought in on a squeaky trolley we would have brought him in ourselves. He could have been carried, no problem at all.

"He was nine stone maximum and it wasn't even the case that it was a heavy coffin. The whole family were disgusted that he couldn't be carried to his grave."

Back problems avoided

After writing to the funeral directors, Mr Blackwell, said he received a reply stating: "I have to make decisions on health and safety issues and always err on the side of safety for my staff.

"The current practice for both our company and at least one of our competitors is to use a wheeled bier at Trinity Church.

"The average coffin with flowers on the bearers' shoulders has a height of 7ft 3ins and with doors of 6ft 8ins to carry into Trinity Church would mean staff having to bend their legs and straighten up once inside.

"This I find unacceptable and could lead to back problems."



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