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Summer job death teen ‘broke neck after tumbling in drum’

Dean Reynolds is on trial in Aberdeen
Dean Reynolds is on trial in Aberdeen

A teenager who died after suffering a broken neck and torn spinal cord may have been injured after “tumbling” inside a machine the last day of his summer job at an industrial cleaning firm, a jury heard today.

Dean Reynolds is standing trial accused of the culpable homicide of 17-year-old Michael McLean, who died on August 14 2015 at Denholm MacNamee’s premises in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire.

The trial earlier heard how Michael was found unconscious and bleeding from the ears on the floor of a paint shed in which sat an industrial spooling machine used to raise and lower subsea cables from oil platforms and boats.

His father – who also worked at the firm – frantically tried to give him CPR before he was rushed to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where he died six days later.

Today Reynolds’ trial was told that a post-mortem examination found that Michael had suffered a broken vertebrae in his neck, which caused a tear in his spinal cord.

That led him to go into cardiac arrest, starving his brain of oxygen and subsequently killing him after a period in intensive care.

Forensic pathologist Dr Matthew Lyall told the sixth day of the trial at the High Court in Aberdeen that a single blow to the head caused during a tumble in the machine could have caused the broken neck – as well as the other injuries found on him, including a broken jaw.

He said: “He had a severe injury that could have produced immediate cardiac arrest, and even if it didn’t I would expect it to produce immediate paralysis of all four limbs.

“Even if you were on level ground I would expect someone sustaining that sort of injury to collapse.

“If you combine that with a moving spool you would find it extremely difficult to maintain balance.”

Advocate depute Richard Goddard asked Dr Lyall: “I put this scenario to you – thiis machine was being operated by another person while Michael McLean was inside it, causing the drum to revolve, perhaps only for a few seconds and then being switched off because he is not fit to do it by then.

“That’s because he had either become entrapped or had tumbled in that drum, could that account for his broken neck in conjunction with the injury to both sides of his body, his broken jaw and the injuries to his chest?”

Dr Lyall replied: “I think that sequence of events sounds plausible.”

Mr Goddard: “Does the scenario I’ve put to you in combination account for the findings in this young man’s case?”

Dr Lyall: “I think it does, yes.”

Defence QC Iain Duguid asked: “Are you not amazed that if he has been tumbling in a drum that he doesn’t have more traumatic head injuries?”

Dr Lyall said: “It just depends how he may have fallen. I probably would most of the time expect to have more impacts to the head.

“He doesn’t have a traumatic head injury.”

Reynolds, 23, of Regent Street, Keith, Aberdeenshire, denies a charge of culpable homicide and an alternative charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

He further denies a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice by discarding two pairs of work boots belonging to him to avoid examination and analysis of them.

The trial, before judge Lord Beckett and a jury of six men and nine women, continues.

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