In the first part of this new round-up we looked at injuries; some common and some less so, that have arisen from the use of ladders. In this part we look at the stories of those who have been less fortunate in their interactions with ladders.

In Zanesville, Ohio, popular handyman and maintenance supervisor Tom Miller died after falling from an extension ladder. Although nobody was around to witness the incident, investigators found a can of bee spray and equipment that indicated Miller was trying to remove a bee's nest at the time, and this could have played a part in the accident. Tom Miller had started his own handyman company and due to his good nature and reputation for hard work and a job well done he had found himself very busy. Despite having retired already, Miller still worked part time helping the town he loved. He even helped his son set up a funeral home business, which will be the venue for his memorial.

Dennis Wodkowski of Houston, Alaska also died after falling from a ladder. He was around twenty feet off the ground when he fainted and fell to the floor, hitting his neck and upper back. His daughter witnessed the incident and called an ambulance, but her father stopped breathing while she was on the phone. She started CPR, which the emergency services took over when they arrived. Despite using a defibrillator 64-year-old Wodkowski was pronounced dead on the scene.

In Austria, a decorating company is under investigation over the handling of an accident in the workplace. They had employed a Hungarian man illegally, and when he fell from a ladder and was seriously injured they refused to call an ambulance and insisted his colleague drive him to a hospital in Hungary, over 90 km away. The man died during emergency surgery as a result of his injuries, having sustained several internal injuries and many fractured bones. It is believed that immediate medical attention could have saved his life, so the police are investigating the employer.

UK Ladder Accidents

Back in the UK, a caretaker at a school in Plymouth died after falling from a ladder which he had climbed to gain access to a loft area. It was the last day of term, and Malcolm Bevan had climbed the wooden ladder, which slipped out from underneath him while he was at the top. He died of his injuries, and the staff and pupils of the school were understandably upset. It was a purpose built loft ladder that caused the death of gas engineer David Wood in March last year. The recent inquest found that the loft ladder he had been using had not been fitted correctly, and that a retaining bar, which was designed to stop the ladder from moving outside the range of safe movement, had not been fitted. The workman who fitted the ladder in 2012 was at the hearing, but was not prosecuted as the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was insufficient evidence. Mr Wood's family said they were pleased with the verdict, and understood that the incorrect fitting of the ladder was not intended to hurt anyone.

In Rosegrove, Lancashire, a retired engineer fell from a ladder at his home while carrying out repairs, and the recent inquest into his death in June 2014 found the death to be accidental. His wife witnessed the accident, and she saw William Halstead hit his head on the floor as he landed. He was taken to hospital and operated on, but his injuries claimed his life a week later. Mr Halstead, 68, had been renovating a property that the couple had bought; a task that was keeping him occupied while he adjusted to retirement. While he usually had his ladders based directly on metal, on the day of the accident they were sitting on a dust sheet, and that may have contributed to the slipping of the ladder. As the ladder slipped Mr Halstead fell and hit his head on a metal toolbox. The coroner's verdict was that bleeding on the brain, caused by the accident, was the cause of death.

72-year-old Maurice Simons was also working on his home, redecorating, when he fell to his death from a ladder. He was painting an exterior windowsill on the first floor when the accident happened and despite being rushed to Southampton General Hospital he died of his injuries, which included a broken neck. As with Mr Halstead, Mr Simons was used to using ladders, having been required to use them for work before retirement, which goes to show that even people with years of experience on ladders can still have accidents.

Eurpoean Ladder Safety Changes

While we may be able to learn something from the unfortunate fate of the people mentioned here, it took over 11 years for the European Union to change the testing rules for a piece of equipment that contributed to the death of a teenage construction worker in 2007. Basilio Brazao, then aged 19, had been working on a wind turbine at the Earlsburn Wind Farm near Stirling, and was using the correct safety equipment, which included a fall arrest system designed to stop people falling all the way down the 230 foot tall turbine shaft. Mr Brazao had been wearing the device, but it did not work properly if the person wearing it fell backwards, only if they fell straight down. Brazao hit his head on one of the bottom rungs of the ladder inside the shaft and died at the scene. An inquest found that he may have become tangled in the ladder as he fell, flipping upside down and falling some of the way head-first. It was ruled that lifts fitted inside the shaft would have prevented the death, but that this was not the cause of the death. Meanwhile, the testing standards for the fall arrest system, which should have been revised soon after the discovery of the failings of said system, were not updated until September this year.

Ladders can be lethal, but they can also be the vital ingredient in crimes, such as the theft of £4,000 of lead from a church roof in Finchingfield, Essex. The thieves struck in the morning of the last bank holiday, and seem to have been disturbed by people moving around in the town surrounding the church, as the pubs nearby were still open for bank holiday revellers. The ladder used by the thieves to gain access was also stolen, which is a reminder for everyone to keep their ladders secure, otherwise they may be unwittingly contributing to a crime.

In Washington, USA, police are also warning residents about leaving ladders unlocked and lying around as an easy target for thieves following a burglary from a second floor window, accessed using a stolen ladder. The previous day, another burglary had been detected by police while it was still underway, and inspired by the use of ladders, they borrowed the local fire department's aerial ladder to get a good view over the neighbourhood. In other parts of the neighbourhood police were seen using shorter ladders to climb over garden fences, and it believed they had been borrowed from builders nearby, as most officers don't carry ladders as a standard part of their equipment!

In Penticton, British Columbia, a ladder was also used in attempted robbery. A thief had climbed a ladder to gain access to a third floor balcony, where a bike was being stored. The resident of that flat had a dog, which woke up and growled at the prospective robber, waking the owner who also scared the thief off. It was the first time anything like that had happened at the apartment block, but now residents are on the lookout for the thief, should he return. In the North Bay area of San Francisco another resident scared off a would-be thief after hearing a ladder being climbed outside his window. He confronted the man immediately, at which point the man climbed back down, fled to a waiting vehicle and drove off.

Spartanburg County, South Carolina is the scene of a bizarre burglary, in which the thief was found asleep in the home he had broken into. The resident affected had locked himself out of his house earlier in the day and had used a ladder to climb through a first floor window. He had left the ladder in situ, and carried on with his day. Around 8.30 that evening he found Charles Alexander asleep under his bed, along with his rucksack that was filled with items from the home. He woke Mr Alexander up and escorted him out, before calling the police. The police were already in the area, responding to reports of a similar incident that day and attended the victim's home, before setting out to find Mr Alexander. When he was caught, he denied ever being there, before admitting his presence but trying to explain it on seizures, claiming he did not know why he was in the home, or how he got there.

In an even more bizarre tale, a potential burglar in Lewis County, Washington, asked a homeowner for a beer as he attempted to gain entry to the home. The 38-year-old man told police he had thought the ladder and rope dangling from the window looked “inviting, like a hippie trail” so he had climbed up it. On finding someone in the room at the top of the ladder he asked if he could have a beer, and then leave through the house instead of back down the ladder. Despite the homeowner refusing permission, the man entered anyway, and was ushered out of the house quickly. The homeowner told police that the ladder and rope were from him cleaning the guttering, and officers quickly picked up the would-be thief walking down the road nearby.

In the part 3, we will look at what the fire services have been up to lately, as well as some of the more strange and entertaining ladder stories from around the world.