Tayside and Central Scotland

Fatal crash lorry was not roadworthy, FAI finds

Stirling Sheriff Court
Image caption The court heard that if the lorry had a safe-braking refinement it may not have crashed

A lorry which crashed on the A9 in Stirlingshire, killing a man in the passenger seat, was not roadworthy, a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) has heard.

John Moody, 60, from Stenhousemuir, died 10 days after the accident which happened on 16 June 2012.

The inquiry heard that the lorry was badly maintained and had not been serviced for up to three years.

Sherriff Derek O'Carroll also said it lacked a safe-braking refinement that might have prevented the accident.

The FAI heard that the three-and-half ton Mitsubishi Cantor would have failed an MOT at the time of the crash on the A9 between Plean and Bannockburn.

Sheriff O'Carroll said Mr Moody's boss at Falburn Engineering Ltd, Plean, Stirlingshire, also knew that the tail of the lorry had a "dangerous" tendency to "kick out" but failed to warn his workers.

Wet conditions

The week-long inquiry at Stirling Sheriff Court heard that Mr Moody, a fabricator, was in the lorry being driven by a colleague James Short when it lost control as it approached the Greencornhills roundabout at Bannockburn at about 08:00.

Mr Short told the inquiry he was braking and changing down on approach to the roundabout in heavy rain when the lorry "kicked out".

He said the wheels locked and it immediately veered violently to the right across the opposite carriageway.

Image copyright Alan Stewart
Image caption Mr Moody died at the Western General Hospital 10 days after the accident

He attempted to correct the veer by turning into it but "everything was solid", and the vehicle did not respond.

The lorry careered into a milk delivery truck heading towards them.

Mr Moody received serious injuries, including brain damage, and never regained consciousness.

He died from his injuries 10 days later at the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh.

In a 33-page written determination, Sheriff O'Carroll ruled that the accident might have been avoided if "reasonable precautions" had been taken, including the firm warning the driver of the lorry's tendency to "kick" under certain conditions and given him training to minimise the risk of this happening.

'Quite unconcerned'

He also said Mr Short should have been told to add additional weight to the rear if the lorry was being driven empty in wet conditions, as it was on the day of the accident.

The sheriff criticised Falburn Engineering managing director Ian Hepburn, who gave evidence to the inquiry that the lorries "are prone to swerving".

Mr Hepburn told the inquiry: "You didn't need to go fast for that to happen. If you kept the brake on, the brakes would lock and the vehicle would start spinning. I knew it could be dangerous."

Mr Hepburn claimed he had told his workers about this but the sheriff said he did not believe him.

Sheriff O'Carroll added: "There was considerable evidence as to whether the vehicle had been adequately serviced. I was rather unimpressed by the evidence of Ian Hepburn, managing director of Falburn Engineering in this regard.

"His evidence was at times vague and confused and contradictory. While, eventually, he accepted that he was ultimately responsible for health and safety matters for the company - which included the safety of his employees in the company vehicles - he appeared at the same time to be more concerned with shaking off this responsibility onto his employees.

"He had little accurate understanding of the regime for servicing and repairs of his company's vehicles and he seemed from what he said and his demeanour to be quite unconcerned about it."

No seatbelt

Sheriff O'Carroll found if the lorry had been fitted with ABS braking the accident might not have happened.

He found the lorry had not been serviced since 2009 by the date of the accident, and a bearing, part of its steering mechanism, had "largely disintegrated", meaning it would have failed an MOT.

He said: "It is unlikely that that defect caused or contributed to the accident but its involvement cannot be completely excluded."

All the tyres were under-inflated, one "grossly so".

He also found the engineering firm did not have an adequate system or regular service in place, or of walk-round inspections before the vehicles were driven.

Mr Moody's widow, Alison, gave evidence that she believed her husband had been wearing a seatbelt, but the sheriff ruled that this had not been the case.

He said that he even if Mr Moody had been wearing a seatbelt this would have been unlikely to have prevented his death.

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