Page last updated at 14:18 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Copper theft man killed by fumes

Ebbw Vale steelworks site
The steelworks at Ebbw Vale shut in 2003 and the site is being redeveloped

A man died when he was overcome by fumes from a petrol disc cutter he was using during a copper theft at a former steelworks, an inquest has heard.

Terence Lewis, 33, from Blaina, Blaenau Gwent, wanted money to buy a birthday present for his girlfriend's daughter.

But he died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a tunnel at the ex-Corus site in Ebbw Vale on 1 September.

Recording a verdict of misadventure, the coroner said it was an illustration of how crime does not pay.

The inquest in Newport heard the father-of-four had been using the disc cutter in a dark, wet, confined space underground when he was overcome by fumes.

A 34-year-old friend Leighton Wall also collapsed but survived, while a 16 year old boy with the men raised the alarm and his father and friends tried to rescue Mr Lewis and Mr Wall, the hearing was told.

Rarely has the old adage that crime does not pay been so graphically and tragically illustrated.
Gwent coroner David Bowen

Newport coroner's court heard the pair went to the site along with the youth to steal a six-inch copper cable which runs through various service tunnels.

Shortly before midnight, the youth, who was on the surface keeping a look-out, noticed the pair had been overcome by fumes and went to raise help.

Despite the efforts of rescuers, Mr Wall and Mr Lewis could not be reached because of conditions described as "horrendous" by Detective Sergeant Glyn Davies of Gwent Police.

Emergency services were called but because of fears over electrocution, and firefighters were unable to go into the tunnel until 0345 BST after Western Power had isolated the area.

"It was dark, dank, wet and very dangerous and a lesson for anyone thinking of entering these sites," said Det Sgt Davies. "It is very, very dangerous."

In his report, pathologist Dr Andrew Davison discovered a soft tissue haemorrhage of the larynx during the post-mortem examination, but he said it was impossible to conclude what actually caused the injury.

Foul play

He added that it could have been sustained when Mr Lewis collapsed, hitting his throat on the way down.

A police investigation later ruled out the possibility of foul play.

Gwent coroner David Bowen said: "Rarely has the old adage that crime does not pay been so graphically and tragically illustrated.

"This was a deliberate venture that went wrong. It has deprived parents of a son and four young children of a father."

Outside court, Mr Lewis' father Robert said: "It shouldn't have happened. It was a tragic thing."

It is understood Mr Lewis had never been in trouble with the police. No-one else has been charged.

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