Englishman Derek Mead was making a rock garden at his home in Hewish, Somerset in July of last year when things took a horrible, tragic turn. According to the BBC, Avon Coroner’s Court noted that Mead had left his forklift in neutral with the engine running and his pet Jack Russell in the cab.
The dog then knocked the shuttle lever, which operates similarly to the gear stick in a car, causing the vehicle to roll forward and pin Mead against a gate where he died. Simon Chilcott of the UK’s Health and Safety Executive said that there was no other “reasonable explanation” for the accident. “You can move it inadvertently, so whether the dog had been jumping up to see where his master has gone, or put his paws up on the door to await the return of Derek, it seems most likely that he has collided with the lever.”
Assistant coroner Dr. Peter Harrowing also confirmed that it was an accidental death. “The most likely explanation is that the dog inadvertently moved the shuttle lever, causing the forward motion, which sadly trapped Mr. Mead against the solid gate, causing injuries which he did not survive,” said the aptly named Dr. Harrowing. The post-mortem examination discovered that Mead died from spinal fractures and traumatic asphyxia. In a touching statement released after his death, Derek Mead’s family said, “He was doing what he loved and had been doing since he was a young boy.”