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Man tried saving life of woman who was pulled up into roller shutter door

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A man has told how he tried to save the life of a woman who was dragged up into the mechanism of a car park’s roller shutter door.

Heidi Chalkley, 40, was heading for a night out when she clutched the door as it rose to open outside her friend’s block of flats in Cambridge.

The social worker’s hands became trapped and she was pulled into the machinery on 14 August 2016, an inquest in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, heard on Monday.

James Spitale, a neighbour, said in a statement that he grabbed Ms Chalkley and tried to lift her up.

“I hoped it would release the pressure on her neck and allow her to breathe,” he said.

Ms Chalkley had earlier asked her friend Susan Gilmore, who lived in the flats in Ruth Bagnall Court, if she’d ever held on to the door “as it goes up”.

Ms Gilmore later phoned 999 when she found her friend caught in the mechanism.

She told the inquest her friend’s legs were hanging down from the underground car park door and her body appeared “folded”.

Ms Chalkley was killed outside Ruth Bagnall Court in Cambridge
Image:
Ms Chalkley was killed outside Ruth Bagnall Court in Cambridge

Mr Spitale was alerted to the incident when he heard someone on the phone sounding “incredibly distressed” outside.

He told the inquest that he then saw a woman hanging about 3ft from the ground at the entrance to the car park.

Mr Spitale added there was blood coming from her mouth.

Despite his rescue efforts emergency services pronounced Ms Chalkley dead at the scene.

A post-mortem gave her cause of death as multiple injuries, noting fractures to her ribs, spine, arms and jawbone.

It recorded that she had no alcohol or drugs in her system.

Ms Gilmore said in a statement read by Cambridgeshire’s assistant coroner Sean Horstead that the incident happened at around 7.25pm.

She said: “We had planned to go out for a drink in Cambridge.

“Before going out I planned to drop my car off at home.”

She drove in to the car park as normal, using a clicker to open the door, with the barrier – a metal grille – rising into a box at the top.

Ms Gilmore said she parked and both women walked towards the barrier which goes out on to the street.

She said: “As we planned on going straight out and into town, we walked towards the barrier rather than to the internal doors and going into the flat.

“We were walking next to each other and Heidi has gone slightly ahead of me and pressed the button.

“As it went up Heidi said to me ‘Have you ever held on to it as it goes up?’ I said ‘No’.

“She then reached up, held the shutter and it lifted her off the ground.”

She continued: “I thought she would let go but she started to panic as her hands got caught in the barrier.

“Everything happened really quickly, in a matter of seconds.”

Ms Chalkley’s family said in statement that she had hundreds of friends, and added: “Everyone who ever met her warmed to her magnetism” and without her “this world is a much colder place”.

The inquest continues.

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