Brennan Webb, 36, from Weston-super-Mare, working on the Marine Parade shelters regeneration scheme, was unloading materials just before lunch on Monday when the accident happened.

The vehicle, known as a telehandler, toppled over with its extended boom dropping over the side of the parade and smashing three private beach huts.

Mr Webb was able to scramble out of the damaged cab uninjured but was visibly shaken by his ordeal.

A couple walking along the lower Cart Road also had a lucky escape. They had walked past the scene of the accident only seconds before and were just 30 metres away when the the telehandler came crashing down.

Seafront railings and one of Lyme’s iconic seafront lamp standards were also damaged in the incident.

The vehicle was being handled by staff employed by sub-contractors Febrey Structures Limited of Bristol.

The three damaged beach huts are all privately owned and the owners were immediately informed of the incident by Lyme Regis Town Council.

The incident was considered to be so serious that the Health and Safety Executive were informed immediately.

The drama was witnessed by former Woodroffe School boarder and unemployed engineer Ian Thompson, from Dorchester. He told the View from Lyme Regis: “I was walking along with my 20 month-old daughter and her grandmother when the incident happened.

“I had taken quite an interest in the site as I am an out of work site manager and was considering the site as a logistical and health and safety nightmare for whoever is managing it.

“The incident itself was quite shocking and the most extreme accident I had witnessed. The telehandler looked to be fully extended and facing towards the Cobb and the driver started to make a right turn on a downward slope.

“At this point the telehandler started to lean over. It felt like slow motion as the telehandler arm fell over on to the beach huts. The arm managed to crush the roof of a hut and the load of boards which had been suspended by a chain completely crushed the beach hut. There was a minute of stunned silence and then one of the site operatives climbed over the balustrade to check if anyone was injured or in the huts.

“Once this had been ascertained and the driver was out of the vehicle the site operatives started to make the area safe.

“I did overhear the driver in a somewhat emotional state claiming that he had no warning of the incident. As in the vehicle’s tilt alarm or safe working load alarm did not give any indication of the impending accident.

“There appeared to be no one injured and after the initial shock the site workers appeared to be managing the aftermath of the incident very well.”

Two attempts were made to lift the fork truck boon off the Cart Road by using a crane on the back of a lorry late on Monday afternoon but without success.

A bigger vehicle was called in on Tuesday to lift the vehicle so that the area could be made safe.

Town clerk Mike Lewis, deputy town clerk Simon Ratcliff and the town council’s shelters consultant David Gale were quickly on the scene after the accident happened to assess the damage and to co-ordinate the necessary securing and safety matters.

On Tuesday the following statement was issued by Mr Lewis: “On the Marine Parade, Lyme Regis, at approximately midday Monday heavy plant, transferring sheets of shuttering ply to the upper level of the shelters as part of the reconstruction project, tipped over with the end of the boom and its load resting on Cart Road after having severely damaged three day huts, a street light and a small section of seafront railings. With great fortune no members of the public were injured and the driver who was unhurt was able to safely extract himself from the cab of the vehicle.

“The area was immediately cordoned off and the police attended within minutes as did town council officers and David Gale, the council’s Client Advisor/Project Co-ordinator. Other town council employees were standing by with appropriate equipment to move additional huts and assist should it prove necessary.  

“The main contractor promptly notified the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). A team of senior executives from the company including the in-house health and safety officer and external H&S advisers attended the site within two hours, from which an incident report will be compiled, in addition to that of the HSE in due course.

"Only then can official commentary be given as to the reasons behind the incident but meanwhile the contractor and sub-contractors with their advisers will naturally establish sufficient information and review their method(s) of working to be able to proceed with the works safely ensuring of course no such incident can re-occur.

“A suitable crane was mobilised on Tuesday morning and the overturned vehicle has been righted and will be removed from site.

“As with all the of the dealings during the long development of this high profile project established and proper procedures will be followed in response to this most unfortunate and regrettable incident.

“Town council employees have notified the owners of the three day huts, retrieved their possessions for safekeeping  and are liaising on their behalf with the main contractor for the replacement of the huts.

“Dorset County Council was informed immediately regarding the damaged street light which has been temporarily disconnected.”

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