Two men died this morning after a van struck the platform of a boom lift as it was being loaded alongside a road.
The incident occurred early this morning, around 5:30 on a busy, high speed stretch of road near the West Flemish town of Ardooie - to the south of Bruges.
Information is still very mixed, but what is clear is that the cab of the box van struck the boom lift and that as a result of the impact the platform broke away from the boom/jib.
The passenger in the van was killed outright, as was the man in the platform, the van driver is very seriously injured and still in danger of losing his life.
Reports just coming in from the police confirm that the boom was being loaded in the dark - and that there were no extra safety warnings on the platform. Early news reports had suggested that the operator was using the lift when it broke free from the boom and landed on the cab of the van - these were clearly not true.
The boom lift, a Genie Z-60/34 owned by rental company ALM, had its boom and risers stowed and photos that we have seen show that the chassis and superstructure were unaffected, and the platform has not been badly damaged, suggesting that the truck ran into the end of the boom/jib just below the platform and the impact ripped it off.
We will update this report as soon as we learn more.
We now know that the man operating the platform was Erwin De Ketele, 35, the owner/driver of a small specialist delivery company. The Belgian national Truck Driver of the Year in 2009 he was fully trained in the safe operation of aerial work platforms and regularly coached youngsters on good safety practices.
It is understood that he drove the boom lift out from the collection address and was preparing to drive it up onto his truck, which was sitting alongside the road with warning cones in place. However what he did not realise was that as he was turning the machine he allowed the unmarked/unlit platform to protrude into the street where it was struck by the passing van.
Those who know De Ketele cannot understand how someone who was so safety concious could have made such a mistake. They say he must have been so focused on manouvering the lift that he missed the fact that the cage was hanging out into the street.
the van was owned by a bus and truck glass supplier, the passenger Giovanni Seys, 38, had a 10 month old son, while De Ketele leaves behind two young children.
The boom lift was given a full inspection and quickly released back to the rental company, having been cleared as having been in full working order and repair, it was just over a year old.