Fireman receives £1m payout after engine fall

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The Independent Online

A fire authority is suing three companies after a firefighter who fell from an engine won almost £1m in compensation.

Barry Langstone suffered severe head injuries and left the London fire brigade after the incident. The city's Fire and Emergency Planning Authority is suing the companies over a door latch that is alleged to have malfunctioned.

The accident happened on 12 April 1992 while the fire engine carrying Mr Langstone was navigating a roundabout in east London on its way to a call. Mr Langstone, then a sub-officer, fell from the vehicle when the latch allegedly gave way, causing a door of the engine to open without warning. He was awarded £900,000 compensation last year.

The fire authority has launched a case in the High Court against Meritor Light Vehicle Systems (UK), which made the latches for the engines; the cab and chassis makers Renault Trucks UK; and Carltonloco, which made the fire appliances.

The authority claims that although the door seemed to be closed it was not secure and that the accident could have been avoided if the sliding latch had been made of harder metal.

It also claims that the manufacturers should have known that latches would be subject to heavy-duty use when they supplied 22 fire engines in 1986 and 1987. A spokeswoman for the authority said: "Since Mr Langstone's accident we have fitted secondary locking devices to stop doors from opening."

The writ claims rigorous testing would have ensured that wear on the sliding latch was discovered and the three companies failed to check the equipment. They also failed to use enough care in the overall design and construction of the latch, the fire authority alleges.