'Master driller' killed by loose fitting

23:30, Sep 01 2014
Slip near Monkey Creek
'MASTER DRILLER': Graham Robert Brown, 67, was killed while working on clearing this slip near Monkey Creek on the Milford Rd in 2012.

A ''master driller'' died after a fitting came loose and hit the side of his helmet, causing a fatal skull fracture, a coroner has found. 

Graham Robert Brown, 67, of Dunedin, was killed while working on clearing a slip near Monkey Creek on the Milford Rd on October 19, 2012.

Coroner David Crerar released his findings into Brown's death today.

The pathologist concluded Brown died from a massive head injury.

Brown was one of several Downer employees working to clear the ''Red Slip'' near the Homer Tunnel in Southland.

He was using an air track drill mounted on a digger to drill holes in the largest boulders so they could be blown up and removed.


Wayne Carran, avalanche manager for Downers in Te Anau, described Brown as a ''master driller'' with specialist skills which were recognised throughout New Zealand and internationally.

''Graham Brown was said to be very special in that he was 'deliberate, never rushed anything or took shortcuts and had a safety culture second to none','' Crerar stated.

On October 19, 2012, Brown and another employee were working with a compressor that was not operating correctly.

After several attempts to make adjustments, they decided to get another air compressor out.

The attachment from the replacement compressor to the air hose they were using was different and needed to be replaced.

Brown did this while two other employees tightened other hose fittings as directed by Brown.

Brown clamped the air hose to the replacement compressor and told the others everything was ready.

An employee noticed the air hose and clamp fail in its attachment and hit Brown.

Carran saw Brown get hit by an object and fall to the ground.

He performed first aid, commenced CPR and called for emergency assistance.

Crerar found air pressure from the compressor caused a separation of the connecting clamp, which detached and struck the side of the safety helmet worn by Brown with considerable force.

''The impact, notwithstanding the protection given by the helmet, caused Graham Brown to sustain a skull fracture which was fatal.''

Crerar noted Brown's widow, Elizabeth Brown, expressed the only person who could identify precisely what had occurred was her late husband.

''I consider that it is probable (more likely than not) that, for some reason, Graham Brown had, on this one occasion and uncharacteristically, neglected to take this safety precaution.''

Crerar said neither Brown nor his colleagues had appreciated the difference of pressure output between the two compressors.

A WorkSafe New Zealand investigation found Brown enjoyed the confidence and respects of both his employer and fellow employees to such an extent that he was considered well able to complete tasks, such as those he had undertaken with the hose connection, autonomously.

Crerar commented that if any one of a number of contributing factors had been missing, including if they had not changed compressors or it had been the same type of compressor, then Brown probably would not have died.

Charges were initially laid in the Invercargill District Court against Downer, but were later withdrawn.

The Press