William John Sullivan of Pimlot Street, Pendleton, was employed by the Manchester Ship Canal Company as a Goods Checker, when he was crushed between a wagon and a wall at the Docks on 11th December 1935.
The Salford City Reporter of 3rd January 1936 recorded the Inquest into his death, held by Salford City Coroner Mr Howard Flint, on Tuesday 31st December 1935. The first witness was William's brother-in-law Thomas McGuire. He said that he saw him on 10th December and he was in his usual state of health. The following day he was told that William had met with an accident. He went to Salford Royal Hospital and William was conscious. William said that he was going to label a wagon and told the capstan man not to move the wagon until he had finished. Whilst he was labelling the wagon, it began to move and he was crushed against the wall.
Dr Hunter said that when the deceased was admitted to Salford Royal, he was found to be suffering from a fractured pelvis and a ruptured urethra. An operation was performed the same night and he made satisfactory progress until 17th December when he developed pneumonia. His condition gradually worsened and he died on 24th December. The cause of death was pneumonia following the fracture and the ruptured urethra.
George Welch of New Park Road, Salford said that he was a Dock Labourer and on 11th December he was working with three other men loading a high sided railway wagon. When the loading had neared completion the capstan man warned the men that he was going to put the capstan into operation. The men walked to the quayside, but when the wagon was moved steadily several feet a shout was heard. The witness climbed on the wagon and, looking over, saw the deceased leaning over some cases in the shed. He was in great pain for he was holding his side and groaning. When asked by the Coroner if it was usual for a whistle to be blown, the witness said yes, but on this occasion the capstan man was only a few yards away so it was customary to shout a warning and I heard him shout.
Joseph Broadhurst of Garnett Street, Pendleton was also working on the wagon. When the work was nearing completion, the capstan man warned the loaders that he was going to move the wagon. After it had been moved several feet, a shout came from the other side of the wagon and the witness saw the deceased lying in the shed in great pain. Similar evidence was given by William Savage of Brighton Street, Salford.
Edmund McKay of Smith Street Salford said that he had been employed by the Ship Canal Company for about 16 years, for the past 12 years as a capstan man. He had in his possession a capstan man's rule book and a whistle. On 11th December he was working at No.6 Dock, and at about 2.30 pm he was asked to move a wagon and set another in its place. He asked one of the Dock Labourers to keep a look out and warn everybody as necessary. He spoke to three men who were loading the wagon. He moved the wagon steadily and heard a cry. He stopped the wagon and found the deceased lying on the shed platform. He had no idea that the deceased had been there. Five minutes before the accident, the deceased asked if he was going to move the wagon immediately to which the witness said no. The deceased said he was going to label the wagon. The witness said that he did not blow his whistle because he thought sufficient precautions had been taken. He did not know why the deceased stood on the wagon. The witness realised now that he should have whistled.
The Coroner, addressing the jury, said that the capstan man was a reliable and conscientious workman with a great amount of experience. However, he frankly admitted that on this occasion he made a mistake. There is no doubt that had the whistle been blown the accident would probably not have occurred. The Jury returned a finding of "Accidental Death" and added a rider that "the officials should bring to the notice of the employees that regulations should be properly observed in the future".
The funeral of William John Sullivan took place on 30th December 1935. He was interred in plot 32 of the Dissenters portion of Weaste Cemetery. Rev. E. Langton officiated.