Tragic death of 'independent' Wigan man after falling from wheelchair on shopping trip

The death of a Wigan man more than two months after he fell from his wheelchair and broke his leg was accidental, a coroner has ruled.
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Gareth Thomas Pennington wanted to go Christmas shopping at the Trafford Centre on December 19 and a stranger offered to help by pushing his wheelchair as he made his way to Wigan bus station.

But an inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court heard Gareth, 44, fell from the chair and fractured his right femur.

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Doctors at Wigan Infirmary considered operating on him, but Gareth was keen to return to his home in Hindley and they instead chose the “conservative” approach of putting his leg in a cast so it could heal.

However, it did limit his mobility, which was already affected as he was born with spina bifida – a gap in the spine from the spine and spinal cord not developing properly in the womb.

The inquest was told Gareth had always wanted to be as independent as possible, despite his health issues.

District nurses went to visit him daily as he recuperated at home, as well as carers, but he developed pressure sores.

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The nurses treated the pressure sores and gave him advice, but they became infected and he was admitted to Wigan Infirmary on January 29.

There, he was given many different antibiotics to treat the sores, but Gareth developed sepsis and pneumonia.

His health continued to deteriorate and he died at the hospital on March 2.

His cause of death was recorded as sepsis, with pneumonia, pelvis osteomyelitis and femur fracture as contributory factors, while his background of spina bifida and encephalitis was also noted.

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Coroner John Pollard concluded that Gareth’s death was accidental, having arisen from the chain of events that followed his fall.

He said: “On December 19 he was going out in his wheelchair and somebody tried to help him. I think whoever that was, was undoubtedly acting out of their best interests trying to help.

"He falls forward, breaks his bone in his leg and it’s really downhill from there on.”

He believed the medical care given to Gareth was correct and did not find any faults with it.

After the hearing, Gareth’s parents Stephen and Sheila Thomas described him as “very independent-minded and very positive”.