Farmer says East Ashling death was ‘freak accident’

The scene at Pond Farm, in Lye Lane, East Ashling, after Alfie Matthews died in what was described by farmer Dennis Bulbeck as a 'freak accident'.
The scene at Pond Farm, in Lye Lane, East Ashling, after Alfie Matthews died in what was described by farmer Dennis Bulbeck as a 'freak accident'.

A CRANE operator was electrocuted on Saturday morning (July 18) as he prepared to load bales of hay on to a truck.

The 34-year-old man, named locally as Alfie Matthews, died after paramedics tried to save his life at Pond Farm, in Lye Lane, East Ashling.

Mr Matthews, from Hambrook, was in the cab of his flatbed truck just before 9.30am when the crane arm he was operating touched an overhead power cable.

Farm owner Dennis Bulbeck was nearby and described it as a ‘freak accident’.

The health and safety executive is investigating.

Police said Mr Matthews was electrocuted after ‘the jib of a crane mounted on a flatbed truck touched high voltage electric cables some 25-30ft above the ground’.

“This resulted in him being thrown from the cab of the vehicle and caused a power cut affecting some 400 homes in the locality,” said a spokesman.

Mr Bulbeck had known Mr Matthews for many years.

“He was a good bloke, he could get on with anybody,” he said.

“The sun was bright and if you stand where the lorry is, you can’t see those cables.

“He’s been here two or three years doing the same thing.

“His little nipper was here, but thank god he wasn’t in the lorry.

“It’s just a freak accident and that’s all there is to it. It was only because the sun was so bright.”

Mr Bulbeck said Mr Matthews had a pulse when he was thrown from the cab and they dragged him further from the lorry. Paramedics, firefighters and police were all at the scene.

An air ambulance landed but Mr Bulbeck said, contrary to national reports, Mr Matthews was taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Portsmouth, by road ambulance. However, a short while later he died.

Mr Matthews’ young son was with him and witnessed the tragedy but was unhurt.

Mr Bulbeck has worked on Pond Farm for about 50 years and Mr Matthews had carried out the same hay-lifting task for the past few years without mishap.

Mr Matthews ran ASM Driveways. The Hambrook-based firm specialised in driveways, landscaping, tree surgery and skip hire.

Anyone who knew Mr Matthews and would like to pay tribute to him in the paper should call 01243 534154 or email

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