The owner-director of a haulage company and its self-employed mechanic have been convicted of the gross negligence manslaughter of four people who were killed by a runaway tipper truck with faulty brakes.
Matthew Gordon, the boss of Grittenham Haulage which owned the lorry, and Peter Wood, who serviced the 32-tonne lorry just weeks before the crash on the outskirts of Bath, were found guilty on 22 December after a four week trial. They will be sentenced on 27 January.
The judge, Mr Justice Langstaff, warned Wood and Gordon that they should expect “substantial prison terms”.
Phillip Potter, the 19 year old driver who was delivering aggregate from a quarry to a park and ride site that was being expanded, was cleared of 14 charges, including four counts of manslaughter and causing death by dangerous driving.
Four people died in the accident on 9 February 2015, including a four year old girl, and two others were injured, when the heavily laden lorry lost control on Lansdown Lane in the village of Weston.
On the day of the accident, Potter was driving in convoy behind another vehicle driven by Gordon, when both vehicles passed signs warning of weight and speed restrictions on Lansdown Lane, a local “rat run” with a one in five gradient. Potter’s lorry struck a number of vehicles, pedestrians and traffic signs and only came to a stop when it tipped onto its side.
Bristol Crown Court heard that Gordon and Wood failed to properly maintain the vehicle’s braking system. A former driver at Grittenham Haulage also gave evidence of persistent problems with the brakes on the same Scania L8 CMT vehicle that Potter had been driving. The brakes were found to be inadequate when they were tested after the collision, with an overall efficiency of just 28%.
“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.”
Those who died were Mitzi Steady (above), aged four from Bath; Robert Parker, 59 from Cwmbran; 52 year old Phillip Allen from Swansea; and Stephen Vaughan, aged 34, also from Swansea.
The tipper truck struck Mitzi and her grandmother Margaret Rogers as they crossed the road at traffic lights, killing Mitzi and leaving Rogers with serious injuries.
The lorry went on to hit three parked cars, killing Vaughan and Allen and Parker, who were both employees of Western Power Distribution. The three were all sitting in a car.
Gordon was given an operators’ licence by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) in December 2013, the first time he had run such a business, according to the Press Association.
Wood inspected and helped to maintain the lorries, carrying out inspections every six weeks. He carried out the final safety check on the Scania lorry in January 2015, weeks before the collision.
The court heard that Grittenham Haulage, based in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, did not have a transport manager to oversee the maintenance of the HGV …