Mother crushed and ‘folded’ in garage door after asking ‘have you ever held on as it goes up?’

A woman who was dragged through the mechanism of a car park’s roller shutter door died after asking her friend if she had ‘ever held onto the door as it goes up’.

Social worker Heidi Chalkley, 40, was heading for a night out when she grabbed hold of the door as it rose at the entrance to the car park of her friend’s block of flats and was lifted off the ground.

She panicked as her hands got trapped and was pulled into the machinery, Monday’s inquest in Huntingdon was told.

A neighbour passing by tried to save the life of the woman, who was left ‘folded’ in the mechanism, by lifting her body up to release pressure on her neck, the inquest heard.

Ms Chalkley’s friend, Susan Gilmore, who was with her, rang 999 but was left devastated as the mother-of-one died at the scene in Cambridge on August 14, 2016.

James Spitale, who attempted to save Ms Chalkley, said he heard someone on the phone sounding ‘incredibly distressed’, then saw a woman hanging about three feet from the ground at the entrance to the car park of Ruth Bagnall Court, a block of flats in Coleridge Road.

In a statement, he said there was blood coming from the woman’s mouth, adding: ‘My immediate thought was to grab her and lift her up.

‘I hoped it would release the pressure on her neck and allow her to breathe.’

When emergency services arrived they told him it was too late, he said.

A post-mortem examination gave Ms Chalkley’s 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 it happened at around 7.25pm.

‘We had planned to go out for a drink in Cambridge,’ she said. ‘Before going out I planned to drop my car off at home.’

She drove into 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.

‘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,’ she said.

‘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.’

She said her friend’s legs were hanging down and her body appeared ‘folded’.

In a statement, Ms Chalkley’s family said she had hundreds of friends, ‘everyone who ever met her warmed to her magnetism’ and without her ‘this world is a much colder place’.

The inquest continues.