'Exceptional' worker fell to his death at harbour site

Picture of rig decommissioning site in Great Yarmouth shown to the jury at the inquest into the death of Stephen Picken

The decommissioning and recycling site in Great Yarmouth where Stephen Picken died in October 2019. The image is one of a number shown to the inquest jury sworn in on June 21, 2022. - Credit: supplied by Norfolk Coroners Court

A man regarded as "the best in the country" at what he did died while dismantling an oil rig in Great Yarmouth, an inquest has heard.

Stephen Picken, also known as "Chic", died on October 17, 2019, after being thrown from an elevated work platform, or cherry picker, at the Veolia decommissioning and recycling site.

Stephen Picken died after an 'industrial incident' at Great Yarmouth's outer harbour. Picture: Archa

Stephen Picken died after an 'industrial incident' at Great Yarmouth's outer harbour. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

The 62-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent was pronounced dead at the scene, after multiple people tried to save his life with CPR.

A jury of nine was sworn in at Norfolk's Coroner's Court in Norwich on Tuesday (June 21) as the first evidence was heard.

The inquest is expected to last eight days.

The court heard from various workers who said it was "just a normal day" carrying out "a basic operation" when the incident happened.

Picture of rig decommissioning site in Great Yarmouth shown to the jury at the inquest into the death of Stephen Picken

An aerial view of the rig 'jackets' that Stephen Picken was working to dismantle at the time of his death in Great Yarmouth in October 2019. The image is one of a number shown to the jury at his inquest. - Credit: supplied by Norfolk Coroners Court

In read evidence plant operator Jordan Richards said the same demolition and cutting work had taken place the previous day without any issues.

He said Mr Picken was working at height with another man Mark Kumar when a stabiliser post came away striking the arm of the cherry picker and throwing the pair from the basket.

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He said they were wearing safety equipment and harnesses, but could not tell if they had been attached to the basket.

Picture of rig decommissioning site in Great Yarmouth shown to the jury at the inquest into the death of Stephen Picken

A picture shown to the jury at the inquest into the death of Stephen Picken, an experienced 'top burner' who died while dismantling parts of an oil rig in Great Yarmouth in October 2019. - Credit: supplied by Norfolk Coroners Court

Mr Picken, he said, was regarded as "the best man in the country" for the dangerous work that he did.

Crane operator Paul Aitken said he heard "a loud bang" and saw a large metal column coming away from the oil rig jacket and hitting the cherry picker.

The court heard the incident drew a large emergency services' response including the air ambulance.

A post mortem examination said he died of multiple injuries.

Picture of rig decommissioning site in Great Yarmouth shown to the jury at the inquest into the death of Stephen Picken

One of the images shown to the jury at Stephen Picken's inquest showing the structures he was working to dismantle at the time of his death in October 2019. - Credit: supplied by Norfolk Coroners Court

Another witness said he did not think Mr Picken was clipped in and that the cherry picker was "too close, and in the danger zone."

In a statement read by the coroner Jacqueline Lake his wife Gail Picken said the couple had hoped to retire to the island of Fuerteventura.

She described him as meticulous and "a stickler for rules" who would not be afraid to raise safety concerns.

She said her husband had a twin sister Susan and that he was "very respected" in the industry.

"He knew he was exceptional at what he did," she said, describing him as "very fair and hardworking" and someone who "never lost sight of simple values."

The inquest continues.