Keen runner died after power company ‘under-played the risk to human life’

18:17 29 January 2014

Dr James Kew was a director of biology at the Centre of Excellence for External Drug Discovery, a research and development arm of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.

Dr James Kew was a director of biology at the Centre of Excellence for External Drug Discovery, a research and development arm of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.


A power company under-played the risk to human life when it failed to switch off a fallen cable which killed a keen runner, a jury has ruled.

Dr James Kew, 41, died after running into an 11,000 volt electrical cable on July 24, 2012 in a field near Ringers Farm, Newport, a three-day inquest at Chelmsford Coroners Court was told.

The Ashdon resident, a member of running club Saffron Striders, was travelling at speed when he came into contact with the wire, hanging at around neck height, and died instantly.

Returning a narrative verdict, the jury said: “Dr James Kew accidently 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, but where the power had not been deactivated through an under-estimation of the risk to human life.”

Over the three days the court heard statements from a number of witnesses and experts.

Jurors were told how Charlotte Wilson was walking along the footpath, in the direction of Debden Road, at about 6pm on the day of Dr Kew’s death. She described how the wire “suddenly appeared” before her, partly shielded at first by the corn field which was “at waist height”.

Ms Wilson ducked underneath it and carried on her way. She had meant to report it but did not get round to doing so.

Roger Musgrove and his wife Karen also discovered the faulty cable later that evening. They reported it and eventually spoke to a UK Power Networks network manager, who in turn sent a technician to assess the situation.

He arrived minutes after Dr Kew had been killed.

Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray told the court that the Musgroves, who pleaded for UK Power Networks to cut the electricity to the fallen cable, had “displayed real presence of mind”.

Speaking about Dr Kew, a top scientist at GlaxoSmithKline, she said: “He was quite remarkable. He was a gifted scientist, doing groundbreaking work. He clearly was an all-rounder and not just a runner.

“But of course he was a much-loved family member and the court would like condolences and sympathy expressed to Mr Kew and other members of the family.”

Dr Kew’s father, Jeremy Kew, was tight-lipped about the findings of the inquest, but did say: “You can draw your own conclusions from the verdict decided by the jury.”

Earlier in the week the court heard how Mr Child had followed the correct procedures, which were in place at that time, when dealing with the situation.

A spokesman for UK Power Networks said: “Our thoughts are with Mrs Kew, her sons, their family and friends at this sad time and we’d like to repeat the condolences that we expressed to them following Dr Kew’s death.”

Dr Kew leaves behind his wife Sarah and children.


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