Bath tipper truck crash: Two guilty of manslaughter

Gordon and Wood Image copyright PA
Image caption Truck owner Matthew Gordon (l), 30, mechanic Peter Wood (r), 55 have been found guilty of causing the death of four people

Two men have been found guilty of manslaughter after a tipper truck crashed in Bath killing four people, including a young girl.

Haulage boss Matthew Gordon, 30, and mechanic Peter Wood, 55, were found guilty at Bristol Crown Court.

The driver of the truck, Phillip Potter, 20, was cleared of dangerous and careless driving.

Mitzi Steady, four, Robert Parker, 59, Philip Allen, 52, and Stephen Vaughan, 34, died in the crash last February.

Mitzi, from Bath, was one of a number of pedestrians struck when the lorry, which had faulty brakes, sped out of control on Lansdown Hill.

Mr Allen and Mr Vaughan, both from Swansea, and Mr Parker, from Cwmbran, south Wales, were in a car hit by the vehicle.

Image caption Clockwise from top left: Mitzi Steady, Philip Allen, Stephen Vaughan and Robert Parker all died in the crash

Mr Vaughan's widow, Sian, said being told her partner was dead felt like "an out of body experience".

She said the death of her "larger than life" husband left her feeling "completely lost".

In a statement, Mitzi's family said they would "miss her every day for the rest of our lives".

"Mitzi was an outgoing, fun, beautiful girl whose confidence and independence had grown to a new level in the months before she was killed, allowing us to glimpse the girl that she should have become," they said.

'Life destroyed'

Mr Parker's wife, Denise, said: "Robert was a wonderful, kind, caring husband; a truly amazing Dad and a loving brother.

"He was taken from us so suddenly, with no time to say goodbye. In my personal opinion this tragedy could have so easily been avoided if people had just done the right thing."

Mr Allen's wife, Louise, said: "Phil was a loving husband, father and grandfather who enjoyed life.

"That life was taken away from him in horrific circumstances by those responsible. Our family life has been destroyed."

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Media captionThe couple had been together for just over four years and married in 2014

In addition to those killed, Margaret Rogers - Mitzi's grandmother, suffered life-changing injuries when the 32-tonne lorry crashed into her and Mitzi as they crossed the road.

Karla Brennan was also seriously injured when the lorry, which was delivering aggregate from Shorncote Quarry to a park and ride, hit her car.

Describing the brakes failing, Mr Potter, who had only worked at the company for a few days, told the jury: "I tried the handbrake. I put it on and nothing. I tried putting the lorry into third gear to try and get the engine to slow it down.

"I blasted the horn. It was the only thing I could think of to warn people that I couldn't stop," he added.

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Media captionPhillip Potter was cleared of all charges

Witnesses also saw smoke coming from Mr Potter's lorry and smelt the brakes burning as he drove down the hill.

Mr Potter, of Dauntsey, Wiltshire, denied causing serious injury, and deaths by dangerous and careless driving.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The 32-tonne tipper truck crashed while travelling down a steep road in Bath

Gordon, also of Dauntsey, was the owner of Grittenham Haulage Ltd and was driving in a truck in front of the lorry that crashed.

Prosecutor Adam Vaitilingam QC told the jury that Gordon was granted an operator's licence in December 2013 - the first time he had run such a business.

"His operation was a shambles from start to finish," he said.

Image copyright Avon and Somerset Police
Image caption "Catastrophic brake failure" was the result of "poor management and a disregard for the rules", the prosecution said

Grittenham Haulage was supposed to have a transport manager responsible for ensuring the lorries were safe, but did not do so in the months leading up to the fatal incident.

Wood was employed by the firm to inspect and help maintain the vehicles, carrying out inspections every six weeks.

The final safety check on the vehicle by Wood was in January, weeks before the tragedy.

"If Mr Wood did carry out a safety inspection that day it was wholly inadequate," Mr Vaitilingam said.

"This sort of catastrophic brake failure doesn't just happen through bad luck.

"This was entirely predictable, the result of poor management and a disregard for the rules and a failure to comply with routine guidelines."

Image copyright Steady family
Image caption Mitzi Steady was described by her family as an "outgoing, fun, beautiful girl"

Gordon had denied 14 charges against him, including manslaughter, by failing to ensure the tipper truck's brakes were in a safe condition.

Wood, of Brinkworth, Wiltshire, also denied four charges against him, including manslaughter by also failing to ensure the safety of the brakes.

'Substantial prison terms'

Remanding them in custody, the judge Mr Justice Langstaff said: "It has to be acknowledged that Mr Gordon and Mr Wood have turned up every day for their trial, but the offences they have been convicted of would attract substantial prison terms, so it seems to me that it would be wrong not to start serving those terms now."

They will be sentenced on 27 January.

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Media captionSpeaking outside the court, the officer in charge of the investigation described the moments before crash

Det Ch Insp Rich Ocone, from Avon and Somerset Police, said: "Our investigation revealed a shocking picture of a company culture with complete disregard of safety and maintenance.

"This was a company with a very casual attitude towards safety.

"If there is a message which needs to come from this tragic incident, it is that company owners must adhere to a duty of care to the public."

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