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Two men jailed over out-of-control tipper truck that killed four

A haulage boss and a mechanic have been jailed after a 32-tonne tipper truck careered down a hill and killed four people, including a four-year-old girl.

Mitzi Steady died and her grandmother, Margaret Rogers, suffered serious injuries when they were hit by the poorly maintained lorry after its brakes failed.

The vehicle continued to career down steep, narrow and twisting Lansdown Lane in Bath, Somerset - which it should not have been driven along.

It crushed a Volvo carrying Stephen Vaughan, 34, of Swansea, and Philip Allen, 52, and Robert Parker, 59, both of Cwmbran, who all died at the scene.

The heavily loaded Scania truck, carrying aggregate, had almost 450,000 miles on the clock and long-standing defects with its braking system.

Mr Justice Langstaff jailed Matthew Gordon, 30, of Dauntsey, Wiltshire, for seven and a half years and Peter Wood, 55, of Brinkworth, Wiltshire, for five years and three months.

They were convicted of four counts of manslaughter following a trial at Bristol Crown Court.

The truck's driver, 20-year-old Phillip Potter, was cleared of all charges.

Victim impact statements were read to the court by the families of the victims, who described the crash as "a tragedy that should never have happened".

The judge said Gordon, the boss of Grittenham Haulage, and mechanic Wood had a "cavalier" attitude to vehicle safety and flouted rules.

"I accept that neither of you intended death or injury or even brake failure," the judge said.

"But the fact is that a lorry as heavy as this is likely to cause serious injury and death to members of the public unless properly maintained.

"The brakes are critical. You know this. You knew that being casual about the safety risked the lives of others. Your failures are inexplicable.

"If they were one-off failures that would be bad enough, but they are not. They were part and parcel of the way you approached your responsibilities."

Signs before Lansdown Lane indicate it is unsuitable for heavy goods vehicles and there is a 6ft width restriction, meaning the 8.5ft wide lorry should not have been on it.

On February 9 2015, two Grittenham Haulage lorries, one driven by Mr Potter and the other by Gordon, used Lansdown Lane as a short-cut.

Mr Potter was following Gordon down the lane when the brakes on his 11-year-old truck, which had not been tested, failed. Six of the eight brakes had major defects.

"It was an accident waiting to happen," the judge said.

Mr Potter and another driver had alerted Gordon to problems with the brakes but he told them to continue driving, the court heard.

After the accident, Gordon told Mr Potter not to mention that an ABS warning light - indicating problems with the braking system - had been on.

"You exposed Mr Potter, a young driver, to the horror of unavoidably killing a young child," the judge told him.

"You showed no immediate remorse for what happened."

Braking defects on the lorry would have been "staring" Wood in the face as he inspected the vehicle every six weeks, while t here was a "botched repair" on one brake and Wood had no qualifications as a mechanic, the judge said.

Speaking after the case, Detective Chief Inspector Richard Ocone, of Avon and Somerset Police, said the lorry's brakes had an overall efficiency of just 28%.


From Belfast Telegraph