A professional photographer who died taking sunset photos while hoisted 50 meters above the ground was an industry leader in using drones for aerial photography.
Christopher Powell and his teenage son were in a crew basket lifted from a crane truck taking pictures of the sun setting over Brisbane’s Story Bridge when the platform collapsed to the ground.
Both men were seriously injured, with Mr Powell dying within minutes.
The recommendations to the government in the findings of Coroner Donald MacKenzie’s inquest released on Tuesday are aimed at preventing such a death from happening again.
The recommendations came as Mr MacKenzie found a ‘break’ in regulations around elevated work platforms (EWPs) that led to operators setting them up on land they had a hunch was safe.
The inquest heard the case was unusual because from an initial visual inspection the ground on which the EWP failed appeared to be very stable.
The site had also been used for weeks before by trucks and EWPs, with the crash in ground stability attributed to a “pie crust situation” after rain and the use of heavy machinery.
Mr Powell was on the EWP to capture images for marketing material depicting the view from the top floor of a to-be-built apartment block in Newstead in December 2015.
The structure consisted of a 33-ton body truck fitted with a 70-meter telescopic boom on a turntable with four legs, each with stabilizer pads.
After the men had been hoisted about 50 meters above the ground for about 20 minutes, the operator heard a noise and saw a hollow forming around the base of the outrigger pad.
He phoned the father and son, saying “I have to take you down”, but the leg sank 1.7 meters into the ground and the EWP began to rotate.
Other legs lifted off the ground, the platform spun, rolled over on the passenger side, and the boom crashed through the boundary fence into a street.
The crew basket crashed more than 40 meters into the road.
Mr Powell was still in the basket, his legs tangled in the safety rails, while his 17-year-old son Brendan was ejected, landing a few yards away.
Brendan has returned to “hybrid normalcy in his life” after years of rehabilitation, Mr MacKenzie said in his findings.
He found the tragedy happened because a 33-tonne machine holding two men nearly 50 meters in the air was allowed to operate when no one had any idea of the quality of the ground.
“This was a serious flaw in the current regulatory system,” he added.
Mr. MacKenzie recommended that geotechnical reports be obtained before specific EWP machines are brought to sites, that an EWP code of practice be established and that EWP operators receive additional training from experts on the identification of dangerous and uncertain ground conditions.
The coroner said Mr Powell was an industry leader in introducing the use of drones for the aerial footage involved in this tragedy.
Drone technology had advanced since his death, but it would still be necessary to elevate workers to considerable heights for different applications.
“Thus, the safe operation of the EWP in terms of ground stability will always be present,” MacKenzie added.
Australian Associated Press