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Otley man tells how he cheated death in quarry horror
When Leslie Wagstaff saw a “sheer wall” of waste collapsing on top of him he thought he was going to die.
The 62-year-old, from Otley, actually survived the accident at Arthington Quarry but was knocked unconscious, buried, suffered a fractured spine and had his foot “snapped in two”.
Those injuries, which happened on May 9, 2012 while Leslie was working as a seasonal employee for waste management and recycling firm Nutramulch Yorkshire Ltd, effectively ended his working life.
The after-effects, which have left him unable to walk far or adopt an upright posture for long without pain, also mean he has had to abandon two of his passions, hill-walking and playing guitar.
He said: “It was absolutely terrifying and I certainly didn’t expect to end up with such terrible injuries simply from collecting litter, plastic and waste from the agricultural mulch the firm was processing. It was horrifying, and something I don’t think I will ever get over.”
“It’s been hard to come to terms with how the accident has affected my life,” he said.
Leslie, of Newall Close, was first taken to Wharfedale Hospital following the accident and then to Leeds General Infirmary, where he was told the extent of his injuries.
He needed surgery to rebuild his foot, using pins and a metal plate, he required more than a year of physiotherapy sessions and had to use crutches until a few weeks ago.
Leslie said: “I knew I’d been badly hurt when it happened – I’d been crushed and my foot was literally snapped in two.
“The wall of waste that hit me was so high, about 30ft, that I was keeping my distance but it collapsed on me anyway. We’d had really bad weather and it was like wet cement piled up, horrible, a sheer wall that just toppled over.
“I haven’t been able to work at all since. I can’t get about very much, and financially I’ve taken a whack.”
Now Leslie and the law firm representing him, Irwin Mitchell, are appealing for ex-colleagues to get in touch to describe the working conditions at Nutramulch’s composting facility at the time.
“I hope my ex-workmates from the firm will come forward with information about what happened so I can finally get justice and start to move on with my life.”
Nutramulch Yorkshire Ltd went into liquidation last year, while Leslie was recovering, which has hindered the search for his ex-colleagues.
Mark Aldridge, from Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office, said: “Employers have a duty to ensure their employees are properly protected from harm and this is particularly important in dangerous settings such as this.
“It was an incredibly frightening experience for Leslie and it’s had a long-term impact on his life as he is still suffering from pain in his ankle, psychological problems and is unable to work.
“We hope as many of his ex-colleagues from Nutramulch as possible will come forward with information about how this incident happened, and to say if anything more could have been done by his employers to help protect him.”