Security guard died by misadventure

Samuel Dofredo, a security guard at the Port Authority Distribution Centre, died from blunt trauma injuries after he walked behind a forklift on 12 February 2007.

He was 43.

A coroner’s jury returned the verdict of misadventure after hearing details from men who were working at the centre that Monday morning.

Queen’s Coroner Nova Hall began proceedings by instructing jurors that, unlike a civil or criminal matter, their duty did not include determining whether anyone was liable.

Attorney Vanessa Allard attended the inquest and asked several questions on behalf of Mr. DoFredo’s family. Attorney Marcus Baldwin represented the Port Authority.

The coroner began proceedings by listing the jurors’ possible verdict: natural causes, suicide or misadventure. If they concluded they did not have sufficient evidence, they could return an open verdict.

The inquest was held on 8 December in Court 5, which has equipment for viewing video tapes. Part of the evidence was video tape from two closed circuit TV cameras at the distribution centre.

The coroner read a statement from Mr. Joseph Woods Jr., Port Authority manager of cruise operations and security. He said security services were provided by K-9 Security Services. There is a guard house at the exit and entrance; it has no running water or restroom facilities.

The guard’s duty is to ensure there is no unauthorised entry to the property; he would have full access to the port property to carry out his duties.

Mr. Willem Jacobs gave evidence in person. He told the court his work at the distribution centre included responsibility for information technology at the centre and he had made a compact disc from the camera tapes.

He played and replayed footage showing activity before and at the time of the incident. He pointed out the size of the forklifts used to load and stack cargo containers (not to be confused with small forklifts used to lift pallets in warehouses). He noted the driver was ‘sitting pretty high up’.

Viewers were able to see the area in which three forklift drivers were working.

Answering jurors’ questions, Mr. Jacobs said a guard would have to go to the lunchroom across the compound to get water or use the restroom. But he could get to the lunchroom without going through traffic. Mr. Jacobs explained the containers are stored in a way that creates aisles, like in a grocery store. ‘If you see activity going down a certain aisle, you want to avoid it so you walk into the next aisle.’

There are gaps of three feet between containers so that somebody walking can cut through if need be, he added.

The video showed a figure walking behind forklift activity and one of the machines reversing.

Mr. Dofredo was run over by a rear wheel.

The driver’s blood analysis was negative for substances tested for.

Mr. Dofredo’s blood and urine samples also tested negative.

Dr. Cheryl Reichert explained the findings of the pathologist who performed the autopsy. Cause of death was listed as skeletal and soft tissue disruption due to blunt trauma to face, chest, abdomen, pelvis and extremities.