Inquest jury returns accidental death verdict on Ashdon scientist

Dr James Kew
Dr James Kew

A jury at the inquest into the electrocution of a top scientist from Ashdon has concluded that he died because power was not turned off soon enough and he ran into a live 11,000-volt cable.

Dr James Kew, 41, died when he ran into the cable as it dangled in a corn field at Ringers Farm, off Debden Road, in Newport on the evening of July 24, 2012.

The inquest jury at Chelmsford Coroners Court last week returned a narrative verdict which said: “Dr Kew accidentally died as a result of coming into contact with a high voltage electrical cable which had been previously reported, and was in the process of being responded to, where the power had not been ­deactivated through an under-estimation of the threat to life.”

The inquest had earlier heard how a member of the public reported the loose cable just minutes before the scientist’s death.

The inquest was told UK Power Networks has a policy to only isolate a line if an engineer is on site.

But in the 14 minutes it took the power company to verify the location of the incident Dr Kew, who worked for SmithGlaxoKline, had come into contact with it and died.

The inquest heard that an engineer sent to fix the cable fault was there at the time of Dr Kew’s death.

Chartered electrical engineer John Steed said there had been two similar cases in the last five years.

He said different power companies had different policies for acting on reports of loose cables from members of the public.

He said three of the six companies he spoke to would switch off a line as soon as they verified a location with the member of the public calling.

But the hearing was told the ceramic insulating cap on the cable had a defect which might not have been spotted even under close inspection.

Dr Kew, joined the Centre of Excellence for External Drug Discovery (CEEDD) in 2010 as a Director of Biology, which is a research department at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Before joining the CEEDD, he spent eight years working within GSK’s Central Nervous System (CNS) drug discovery unit, most recently as Director of Molecular & Cellular Biology within the Schizophrenia & Cognitive Disorders Discovery Performance Unit.