“I knew he was dead”
A DORSET man who found his friend and neighbor crushed to death under a car has urged mechanics and car enthusiasts to “don’t cut corners”.
Leslie House, 61, a self-employed agricultural engineer who was just months away from retirement, repaired a Land Rover Freelander for a client in May 2020.
His neighbor Terry Bishop is now backing a renewed appeal to follow simple measures laid down by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Mr Bishop was asked to check on Mr House, known as Les, who was working on the vehicle in his driveway at Higher Muckleford, near Dorchester.
“At first nothing looked unusual,” said 65-year-old Mr Bishop.
“I called Les several times but he didn’t answer. When I got to the front of the vehicle I could see Les’s legs sticking out and his feet tipping sideways and he didn’t respond to me.
“I grabbed his legs and tried to pull him out but couldn’t move him. That’s when I noticed that the vehicle had been removed from the wooden blocks he had been using.
“I tried to push the vehicle backwards onto the blocks but it was too heavy. I immediately called the ambulance for help.
“I felt for a pulse but there wasn’t one and I suppose by that point I knew he was dead, but that doesn’t stop you from trying, does it?
“I ran to Les’s other neighbors for help and they, along with me and my daughter, tried again to get the vehicle back onto the blocks and off of Les, but the Land Rover was just too heavy.”
Mr House was pronounced dead at the scene by the emergency services and Mr Bishop told police that he found the vehicle’s handbrake was not engaged.
Mr House lived with his dog Ebby (below) alongside his mother, June House, for whom he was her primary caregiver due to an untreatable spinal condition.
The task of breaking the tragic news to Ms House fell to Mr Bishop, who said: “It was a surreal experience. It just didn’t catch on, neither with June nor with me.
“The work he did was probably something he would have done hundreds and hundreds of times before.
“But for some reason the handbrake wasn’t on that day. Honestly, he shouldn’t have used wooden blocks either.
“At the end of the day, this tragic accident was down to Les. It was his mistake to put the vehicle on those blocks.
“Given the kind of man he was, I know Les wants others to learn from his mistake and prevent more deaths.
“There must be hundreds of near misses out there where someone manages to get out just in time.
“But the simple message to retailers and car repair enthusiasts is don’t skimp. Saving is deadly.”
Mr House was known to have a keen interest in rural matters and was also a staunch supporter of local charities.
“He was nearing retirement and had big plans. At the time of his death the country was in the middle of a national lockdown but Les was reluctant to get going once it ended,” Mr Bishop said.
“I know my boyfriend lived his life the way he wanted, but the way it ended for him, which was so avoidable, makes me really sad.
“I still miss him sticking his head over the fence to chat or offer me some eggs.”
Mr House’s mother died in June 2021 and Mr Bishop said he “strongly believed” that her son’s death “sped up” her own.
Mr House’s death was raised with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
However, as it was not reportable under the RIDDOR framework, no HSE investigation was conducted.
RIDDOR stands for Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations and was introduced to add a more structured approach to reporting of workplace safety issues by employers.
The Labor Inspectorate submitted a report to the Coroner for Dorset who, following an inquest, returned a verdict of accidental death.
HSE has guidance on how to work safely under repaired motor vehicles and has also issued a safety warning for air suspension systems on vehicles.