A WASTE disposal truck driver may have died while searching for a lost mobile phone in a rubbish tip, an inquest jury has been told.

Richard Buckley, aged 45, of Fitzgerald Close, Prestwich, died in hospital in July, 2003, after he was found at a waste transfer station at White Reclamation Ltd, Eccles.

Ccolleague David Constable searched for Mr Buckley with another member of staff after seeing Mr Buckley's vehicle abandoned and causing an obstruction to other wagons using the site.

Mr Buckley was later found in a collapsed state in the transfer station, where drivers deposit the waste they have collected. He was taken to hospital where efforts to resuscitate him failed.

Mr Constable said: "He was not anywhere in sight. It was said that Richard was looking for a phone and it seemed likely that he was pushed into the transfer station."

The two colleagues went to look for Mr Buckley after finding his truck abandoned. Mr Constable said: "Rick never left his wagon and the end of the wagon was lifted up. I assumed it was broken and he had gone to the garage to get a fitter.

"The wagon was causing a blockage and other wagons could not get past because of it."

The jury heard that on the day of his death, the father-of-one went to collect waste from C3 Imaging Manchester Ltd. The company later contacted White Reclamation Ltd's transport manager, Peter Brown, to say one of their employees thought their mobile phone had fallen in to the rubbish that had been collecting, and whether it was possible the waste could be checked.

Mr Brown said: "I asked the company to ring the mobile and asked Mr Buckley if he heard a ring to let me know. The intention was to isolate that waste.

"He said to me he would listen out for it. About 15 minutes later Mr Buckley rang me back to say he was about to tip off the load. I rang the company to ring the mobile phone."

Mr Brown said the waste, which had been tipped to the side inside the transfer station, could be safely looked through at the end of the day once all the machinery had stopped operating.

He added: "There was no further conversation and it was later on I became aware he was missing."

Although the rubbish from Mr Buckley's wagon had been tipped to the side, the men operating the loading shovels, which compacted the waste to the back of the building, said unless rubbish was cordoned off, it would still be pushed back.