Chris Brookes: Father plunged 40ft to his death after climbing 'faulty' fire escape gate at Wolverhampton bus station
A young father plunged 40ft to his death trying to climb over a faulty fire escape at the city’s bus station, an inquest heard.
Chris Brookes mistakenly believed an outdoor gate was locked and decided to scramble over it after becoming trapped between two fire exits at Wolverhampton bus station.
But the Dudley-born man slipped and plummeted onto a bus lane of Wolverhampton ring road below.
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The 22-year-old’s death came just six months after another man almost died trying to scale the same gate, Black Country Coroner’s Court heard.
Fire safety inspector Stephen Clegg told the inquest: “I don’t believe that gate was locked. When I looked, I concluded it was faulty. There’s a knack. If you don’t hit it right, it appears locked.”
Black Country Coroner Zafar Siddique, who recorded a conclusion of accidental death on Mr Brookes, said he will now write a Preventing Future Deaths report.
Mr Brookes, from Oldbury, had been out celebrating brother Craig Brookes’ birthday but got separated from the group. His brother told the inquest Mr Brookes, an assembler at Elta Fans in Kingswinford, was probably trying to get home when he ended up at the bus station at 2am on October 29.
He suffered a fractured scalp, ribs, spine and arm in the fall onto Ring Road St Patricks and was bleeding heavily in the brain and died as a result of a head trauma, pathologist Dr Paul Hiley said.
Mr Brookes, who died before partner Sarah Jayne Collins gave birth to his second child, had taken a small amount of cocaine and had 108mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood – exceeding the drink-drive limit of 80mg.
Narrow escape six months before tragedy
Another man was left hanging from railings in a narrow escape after trying to climb the same ‘faulty’ gate.
The incident happened just six months before the tragedy at Wolverhampton bus station on October 29.
A man had tried to climb over the gate and slipped, but was saved after he got caught on the railings and was left hanging last April.
The inquest heard on Monday that Mr Brookes, from Tame Road in Oldbury, was on his way home from a night out he went through a fire exit at Wolverhampton bus station, which could not be opened from the outside once shut, onto an outdoor ‘balcony’. He is believed to have walked along a narrow 50m path – squeezed between a 1.5m brick wall and 1.2m metal railing – towards the second fire escape.
Detective Sergeant Dan Jarrett told the hearing the ‘obvious way out’ would have been to mount the metal railing and climb over the fire gate, which connected to the bridge near the railway station.
But the keen sportsman fell 40ft onto the ring road below. He was taken to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital at about 3.40am but medics were unable to save him.
Since his death, the first fire escape leading outside has remained locked and will be fixed so it can be opened from both sides, the inquest was told.
Extra emergency lighting and signs warning risk of death have been installed and a push bar has been placed to mend the faulty door. And coroner Zafar Siddique said he will write a Preventing Future Deaths report.
It also emerged at Monday’s inquest how a security team did not respond when Mr Brookes set off an alarm as he opened the first fire exit. The city’s bus station is owned by Wolverhampton council and managed by West Midlands Combined Authority.
Tim Johnson, deputy managing director of City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “We understand that the coroner will be formally requesting further information from us and other parties. We are taking this matter extremely seriously and will cooperate fully with the coroner.”
Brother Craig Brookes told how they had been out partying when he and a friend parted with the group and travelled to Wolverhampton. Mr Brookes was refused entry into a nightclub and was separated from his friend. Craig Brookes paid tribute to his brother saying: “He would just come into the room and he would just make you happy.”
He was father to Layla-Jade, aged three, but died before son Chris Junior was born.
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