A CLASSIC car enthusiast suffered fatal crush injuries after a forklift truck he was helping to load on to a lorry at a Carlisle auto-salvage yard fell on top of him.

The tragedy happened at the Michael Douglas salvage yard in February last year.

Paul Desmond Spence, 64, died after a winch cable he was using to pull the forklift further on to the wagon suddenly detached, toppling first Mr Spence from the wagon and then the forklift.

The two-and-a-half-ton machine landed on top of him, pinning him to the back of a skip lorry.

Despite desperate efforts to save him - including by the yard’s owner Michael Dougas - Mr Spence died at the scene.

An inquest in Carlisle heard how Mr Spence had arrived at the Etterby yard on the morning of February 15 in a “beaver tail” lorry owned and driven a friend.

They planned to take the forklift back to Mr Spence’s home in Skipton, Yorkshire.

In his evidence, Mr Douglas said that while he was the salvage yard’s managing director he was very “hands on” with the business. He described Mr Spence arriving to collect the forklift truck, at that time sitting on a ‘loading platform’ - essentially a skip without sides.

Mr Douglas first loaded the forklift on to his skip wagon, and then transferred it to the lorry Mr Spence had brought, which was reversed up to the back of the wagon.

Once it was on his lorry, Mr Spence said he wanted the forklift further forward on the truck. To do this, and to pull it off the loading platform, Mr Spence attached it to a winch cable. His first attempt to pull it backwards failed because the forklift’s handbrake was on.

It was as Mr Spence stepped on to the back of the forklift to turn the handbrake off that it tipped, and the accident happened. “I tried to shout stop but never got the words out,” said Mr Douglas.

He recalled seeing the winch cable “catapult”, saying its hook cable broke.

Mr Douglas’s employee Ben Crabtree saw what happened from across the yard, saying Mr Spence fell between the two lorries after stepping towards the forklift.

He used another lifting lifting machine to get the forklift off Mr Spence, after which Mr Douglas pulled him free. Mr Crabtree did CPR on Mr Spence but could not save him.

Earlier in the inquest, Mr Spence’s daughter Maria said her father initially qualified as a joiner but later ran a vehicle recovery business. He had a lifelong passion for cars. “He had loads of cars,” she said, outlining how he bought and renovated them. “He was a marvellous father,” she said. “He also enjoyed rock music, and local bands.”

Despite needing a new heart valve, and beating prostate cancer, he was active. She added: “He was a mild-mannered man, always smiling. He was lovely.” The hearing continues.