Under questioning by one of his own officers Mr Clinton, Superintendent Marshallsay responded; I personally saw the wheels of the escape scotched up before the men went up. A double precaution was taken in this matter by fixing another scotch behind. A rope was passed out of the station window and fastened to the head of the escape to prevent it pitching forward.
Mr Perkis's brother was then invited to question the Superintendent but declined to do so, remarking that he was satisfied with the evidence given.
The Coroner followed with his mid-hearing understanding of the case so far; It was the first time that the Brigade had carried out the drill with the twin branch on this escape, but had used the single branch on the old escape, to which all were accustomed. The additional weight put on the escape by the double hose would amount roughly to the weight of another man distributed along its length. The weight of the twin branch would be from 18lbs to 20lbs. As many as six men had been placed on the escape at one time. I am quite satisfied that the hose was not more than the escape could bear. I am convinced that the escape could take three men in the position it was, and I am sure it was not unduly taxing its strength. You had had two men on the top with the escape fully extended. The escape was capable of being used for all purposes, and was a proper one for use as a water tower. I agree that the base of the wheels is very narrow, 4ft 6in., in comparison with its height, but you had counteracted that using hose as guys. The makers have thoroughly tested the escape and the wheel base was the usual standard. The escape would be less stable on uneven ground. If the machine canted to one side or the other, the four men on the levers would be powerless to prevent it going over. As an expert of considerable experience (a remark that suggests the Coroner was or had been a fireman) I am of the opinion that the way the escape was used at the time of the accident was safe.
On being asked for his opinion of the cause of the accident Superintendent Marshallsay replied; If the man at the top shifted one foot from the rung and turned his head, the act would tend to throw his weight on one side and so slew the top of the ladder out of its centre of gravity and also out of its base.
The examination of Mr Marshallsay exceeded an hour and further expert witnesses remarked on the reliability of the ladder and system in use, the appropriateness of the ground conditions for the drill and the experience and capability of Fireman Perkis.
Dr Cohen, who attended when requested, stated that on his arrival Perkis was alive but suffering from severe shock and having a broken back, head injury, several internal injuries and no feeling in his legs. He was removed to hospital but died there by about ten o'clock that evening.
Fireman Tebbutt, 18 years of service behind him, evidenced that during his two ascents of the ladder he found all to be safe and well. His testimony was followed by that of Fireman Jacobs with only eight months of time-served; I was on the levers with the others. When Perkis was up the ladder, and the water was shut-off, I noticed he shook his right foot over the side of the escape and was leaning towards the side that the escape fell. I was sitting on the levers and could feel it going - it was rising up - and I shouted out. I did my best to hold it back. All the other men were there and we did our best effort to keep it from going over. Perkis was moving about a good bit before the ladder fell.
A juryman asked if the other firemen thought Perkis was playing a practical joke on his comrades by attempting to squirt water at them. Mr Marshallsay vehemently denied this as impossible given the direction that the branch was pointing.
Fireman Attfield, also of eight months service, stated; I saw Perkis standing on his left foot on the right side of the ladder, and kicking out with his right foot as if in fun with the rest of the men. The engine was then running but as soon as the water stopped over went the escape.
Mr G.E. Dwyer, Chief Officer of Alton Fire Brigade and vice-president of the National Fire Brigades Union stood as an expert witness and offered; Mr Marshallsay is considered to be the best judge among the whole of the 15,000 members of the National Fire Brigades Union and was the best known expert in fire brigade work. I consider that the hose could not have been placed in a better position. The drill in progress was on the most up to date principle, being done with the object of fighting a fire from above rather than below.
Mr Clinton then remarked; I am of the opinion that anyone swaying on a ladder such as has been described by a witness was dangerous.
The Coroner summarised all that had been said over the previous four hours. The jury retired but returned twenty minutes later with their verdict. The foreman spoke; The jury unanimously agrees that the affair was purely an accident but we wish to add the recommendation that the escape should not be used again for a water tower unless guy ropes were used.