Elderly man's fall off cliff after 'rotten' council railing gives way

Francis Hutchen 'basically did a backflip' down the rocks, hitting his head along the way, when he fell outside his Sydney home.

Broken white timber railing on walkway on Prince Edward Street in Malabar, Sydney.
It's alleged the timber railing on Prince Edward Street in Malabar, in Sydney's eastern suburbs, was "rotten" and in need of urgent repair. Source: 7News

An elderly man was left bleeding from his head after toppling several metres off a cliff when a council railing he was leaning on supposedly snapped and gave way beneath him.

Francis Hutchen, 92, had been standing on a walkway near his house on Prince Edward Street in Malabar, Sydney when he reportedly decided to rest. However, as he leaned on the white frame, "he toppled down the cliff face," his grandson Jon Hutchen, 37, said — hitting his head on rocks the entire way down.

"He basically did a backflip," Jon explained.

According to the 37-year-old, the fence in question was "rotten" with council previously receiving multiple repair requests. Randwick City Council allegedly "fixed" the fence less than a year ago, however was not up to standard, Jon implied.

"All they did was put a single screw through the fence on the opposite side,” he told 7News.

Photos shared by 7 show where the timber frame had snapped under the weight of Francis — an incident that's reportedly left him in an "unstable condition". Another shows the elderly man bleeding from the head.

The fall left the 92-year-old drifting in and out of consciousness, according to Jon. His grandfather broke the C3 and T12 vertebra in his neck and thoracic spine, and sustained temporal and frontal brain bleeds. "He's not in a good way," he said.

Left: Broken white railing in Malabar, Sydney. Right: Francis Hutchen laying on hospital bed with bleeding head.
The railing snapped when the 92-year-old leaned against it, causing him to fall several metres down the rocks. Source: 7News

NSW Ambulance confirmed the incident to Yahoo News Australia, saying the man was taken to St Vincent's hospital after being treated at the scene by paramedics. However, they could not confirm the severity of his fall or details about his injuries.

Randwick City Council is now investigating the situation, a spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo, "and is working to ensure the site is made safe."

"Randwick City Council is extremely concerned to hear about the incident in Malabar, and our thoughts are with the injured man. We have reached out to his family to offer any support that we can," a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

"The safety of residents and visitors in Randwick city is of utmost importance to Council."

Council did not directly respond to Yahoo's enquiries regarding the poor condition of the railing or claims council had previously received several requests to repair the fence.

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