HSE agrees to investigate death in fork-lift crash

The Health and Safety Executive agreed to investigate the death of a young man in a fork lift-truck accident, after his family took the workplace safety watchdog to the High Court in London yesterday.

Mohammed Omar Akhtar, 20, died after being nearly decapitated by a fork-lift truck near his home in Old Trafford, Manchester, in 1997. The court was told Michael Jones was steering his vehicle the wrong way down the street with the forks raised some four feet high to unload pallets from a lorry when it was in collision with Mr Akhtar's car.

The safety executive refused to investigate the case for two years, saying it was a road traffic accident and a police matter. The dead man's brother, Mohammed Ali Akhtar, 29, brought a judicial review against the executive on behalf of his family. Lawyers for Mr Akhtar accused it of an "astonishing" refusal to investigate the possibility of bringing serious charges, including manslaughter, against Mr Jones's employers, Moores Timber Merchants, under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.

But in the High Court yesterday, Alan Maclean, for the executive, said it was now willing to give an undertaking to investigate the death. Lord Justice Roch congratulated the parties on reaching "an appropriate settlement which we hope will assuage some of the feelings that have been aroused by this case".

In the accident, Mr Omar Akhtar's jugular vein was severed, his car careered out of control and crashed outside his family's home. On hearing the crash the family came out to find him trapped and bleeding to death. He was cut from the car two hours later and his life support machine was turned off the next day.

In 1998, Mr Jones was found guilty by magistrates of driving without a licence and he received a conditional discharge for six months. His non-existent licence was endorsed with three penalty points. Moores received a conditional discharge on a similar charge.