Logistics And Frieght Forwarding

Driver of a 32-tonne truck that killed a girl, four, and three men ‘ignored a brake-failure warning light as he went down a hill the HGV was banned from driving on’

  • Driver ignored signs on steep hill in Bath banning heavy goods vehicles
  • Then ignored brake failure light before killing girl, four, and three men
  • Driver, mechanic at firm and owner of company involved all face trial
  • Prosecution today told court the lorry ‘should never have been’ on road

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The driver of a 32-tonne truck that killed four people ignored a brake-failure light and was driving on a road where heavy goods vehicles are banned, a court heard.

The Scania HGV, fully loaded with aggregate, had been speeding at 52mph – above the 40mph limit – just before the tragedy, it was said.

The driver then ignored ‘not suitable for HGV’ warning signs as it entered the 1:5 hill where it suffered a ‘catastrophic’ brake failure.

Four-year-old Mitzi Steady (pictured), Robert Parker, 59, Philip Allen, 52, and Stephen Vaughan, 34, died in Bath, Somerset, in the horror crash on February 9 last year

Four-year-old Mitzi Steady (pictured), Robert Parker, 59, Philip Allen, 52, and Stephen Vaughan, 34, died in Bath, Somerset, in the horror crash on February 9 last year

Steve Vaughan was also killed in the crash while travelling with two friends in a car

Steve Vaughan was also killed in the crash while travelling with two friends in a car

Robert Parker, 59 Philip Allen, 52

Robert Parker, 59, and Philip Allen, 52, also died in the crash that the prosecution claim three men are criminally responsible for

It crashed into four-year-old Mitzi Steady who was crossing the road with her grandmother Margarert Rogers.

The youngster was killed instantly and Mrs Rogers suffered life-changing injuries, as did another woman.

The poorly-maintained Scania truck – which had 437,500 miles on the clock – then hit a car containing three men and killed them.

Rookie driver Philip Potter, 20, had ignored a warning light signalling a problem with the brakes that was flashing on the dashboard, jurors were told.

Potter, 20, of Dauntsey, Wilts., denies causing death and serious injury by dangerous and careless driving in the crash outside Bath, Somerset on February 9 last year.

His boss, Matthew Gordon, 30, of Dauntsey, Wilts., denies gross negligence manslaughter and causing death and serious injury by dangerous and careless driving.

Mechanic Peter Wood, 55, of Brinkworth, Wiltshire, who checked the lorry over the month before the crash, denies gross negligence manslaughter.

The brakes failed in a 32-tonne lorry that careered into the road and killed four people in a horror smash on February 9

The brakes failed in a 32-tonne lorry that careered into the road and killed four people in a horror smash on February 9

Bristol Crown Court heard that the lorry shouldn’t have been on the roads at all and the driver had ignored a warning light signalling a problem with the brake system.

The driver filled in a form at Grittenham Haulage where he worked to alert his boss to the problem, it was said.

But Gordon denies this and said it ‘had been on the other side of his desk and he had not got round to reading it’.

Jurors were also told that before reaching the fatal spot, Potter was speeding at 52mph, despite the legal limit for a fully-loaded lorry being 40mph.

He saw a series of signs which said that 20mph Lansdown Lane, which has a 20 per cent incline, was ‘not suitable for HGVs’ or vehicles wider than 6ft, it was said.

The court heard how the catastrophic brake failure caused 'devastation' (pictured) when the truck careered into a car and the four-year-old girl

The court heard how the catastrophic brake failure caused ‘devastation’ (pictured) when the truck careered into a car and the four-year-old girl

But he and his boss Gordon who was driving ahead of him in another lorry, both ignored the warnings – despite their trucks being 8.5ft wide, jurors were told.

The pair – who had not had a break all day – drove their trucks down the ‘rat run’ road to avoid the afternoon congestion, it was said.

Experts analysis of tachographs show that neither drivers had taken a mandatory break that day and both were speeding.

Adam Vaitilingam QC, prosecuting, said: ‘These lorries were not allowed to be and should never have been on Lansdown Lane.’

TRAGIC DEATH OF TINY TOT ATTRACTED 800 MOURNERS

Mitzi lived with her parents Andrew and Emmajade, 42, around half a mile from the pedestrian crossing where she died.

She was walking to Weston All Saints Primary School with her grandmother to pick up elder siblings Eric and Mycha when they were hit.

More than 800 mourners attended her funeral at Bath Abbey, with her wooden coffin painted in the style of Disney’s Frozen.

Paying tribute, Mrs Steady said: ‘You were the light of our lives, the love that filled our souls.

You were the sparkle in a dark night and the laughter ringing in our ears.’

Newlywed Mr Vaughan, from Penyrheol, Swansea, was co-founder of luxury taxi service EliteXecutive Travel.

He had a long list of famous clients including Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, Coronation Street actress Helen Flanagan and singer Katherine Jenkins.

His wife Sian said after his death: ‘We had only been married six months and I was honoured that he chose me to be his wife.’

He added: ‘Both of them were travelling at an illegal speed.

‘They had gone up to 56mph, which was the highest speed their lorries were capable of travelling at.

‘The maximum speed when they were fully laden was 40mph.

‘They were in a hurry, that is the same reason they went down Lansdown Lane rather than take the legal route into Bath.

‘Speeding in a 32 tonne truck and then using your brakes to slow down causes the brakes to heat up.

‘For any responsible driver it is not rocket science.

They know that perfectly well.’

The prosecutor said that all of these things led to disaster when Gordon stopped at a traffic calming measure and Potter tried to stop behind him.

Six of the eight brakes on the ‘poorly-maintained’ Scania lorry failed and it careered out of control, causing ‘absolute devastation’.

Bristol Crown Court heard that Potter, who had only been working at Grittenham Haulage for a few days, was being shown the ropes by his boss at the time.

But Gordon, who had run the company since December 2013, regularly and deliberately flouted the rules, the prosecutor said.

Mr Vaitilingam said there was a recurring theme in the case, that ‘Matthew Gordon was not a big fan of following other people’s rules’.

He said: ‘Matthew Gordon claims that he didn’t know about the weight restriction.

‘Philip Potter says, ‘Yes, I saw the sign but I thought it was OK because I was following my boss.’

Company boss Matthew Gordon, driver Phil Potter and mechanic Peter Wood were all responsible for the deaths of four people in a crash in February, a court heard Mechanic Peter Wood

Company boss Matthew Gordon (left), driver Phil Potter (right) and mechanic Peter Wood were all responsible for the deaths of four people in a crash in February, a court heard

Mechanic Peter Wood (pictured today outside Bristol Crown Court) was admitted that the brakes should have been tested every three weeks but were only done every three

Mechanic Peter Wood (pictured today outside Bristol Crown Court) was admitted that the brakes should have been tested every three weeks but were only done every three

He said the boss but a considerable amount of pressure on new employee Potter to do as he said.

According to a former Grittenham Haulage employee, the company had a rule ‘to take the shortest route possible.’

This meant going ‘through country lanes despite any restrictions, if it saved time or money or it meant an extra lorry load could be squeezed into a day’s work’, the court heard.

But the prosecutor added: ‘Ultimately, Potter chose to drive in the way he did.

‘He knew the anti-lock braking system light was on.

‘He knew he was speeding and driving using the brakes.

‘It’s not good enough simply for him to le in a box and say, ‘He made me do it.”

Phillip Potter was an 'inexperienced' driver who had started with the company just days before the crash

Phillip Potter was an ‘inexperienced’ driver who had started with the company just days before the crash

Jurors have previously heard that Grittenham Haulage, was a ‘shambles’ and was in breach of its legal obligation to employ a transport manager to oversee safety procedures.

Despite having 710,000km on the clock, the 2004 Scania lorry was poorly maintained and its brakes tested only once a year, it was said.

As a result, six of its eight slack adjustors weren’t working properly and failed ‘catastrophically’ when Potter braked.

Also killed in the crash were Stephen Vaughan, 34, of Swansea and Philip Allen, 52 and Robert Parker, 59, both of Cwmbran, South Wales.

Another woman, Karla Brennan, suffered life-changing injuries.

Potter denies causing the deaths by dangerous driving and the lesser charge of causing the deaths by careless driving.

He is also charged with causing serious injuries to Mitzi’s grandmother, Margaret Rogers, and Karla Brennan, by dangerous driving and denies 10 charges in total.

Gordon denies 14 charges including gross negligence manslaughter by failing to ensure the brakes were safe.

He also denies causing their deaths by dangerous or careless driving, and causing serious injuries to Margaret and Karla.

Wood denies the manslaughter of the four victims by failing to ensure the brakes of the truck were in a safe condition.

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References

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