Colleague of man killed in runaway lorry crash says drivers were told to park on steep slope

A colleague of the man crushed to death by his own runaway lorry has told a jury that drivers were told to park on a steep slope at Derriford Hospital. Viridor worker Lee Jane failed to apply the handbrake of his skip lorry before it rolled down a hill with its trailer, a court heard.

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Mr Jane, aged 57, was dragged under the wheels of the trailer and fatally injured as he tried to stop the out-of-control vehicle. Viridor Waste Management Ltd has gone on trial at Plymouth Crown Court charged with health and safety failings in the lead-up to the accident in June 2015.

Lee Jane, the lorry driver who died aged 57 after being pulled under his unmanned skip lorry as it rolled down a hillLee Jane, the lorry driver who died aged 57, was described as a loving member of his family

Prosecutors say that drivers loaded and unloaded skips for incinerator ash on a steeply sloping road close to members of the public – when flat areas were available.

HGV driver Graham Cocks, a former colleague of Mr Jane, told the jury that a member of staff at the incinerator told him to park on the steep area. The incinerator was also run at the time by Viridor.

Lee Jane died after being run over while trying to stop a runaway skip lorry from crashing into a building at Plymouth's Derriford Hospital.The scene of the accident showing where the lorry and its trailer carrying skips rolled down a slope

The court heard that Mr Jane spent an hour manoeuvring to and from the spot on the hill on the day of the accident. Mr Cocks, who said he spent years visiting the hospital, added that he himself would apply the handbrake “20 or 30 times” during the loading and unloading operation.

He added that he had been unable to use other nearby flat areas, including a loading bay and a car park.

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Mr Cocks said that managers at the Plympton depot were not told about the spot used for the unloading and loading operations. He added: “I had no problem with parking on a slope, a lot of jobs do need to be on a slope.”

Pennon Group secretary Helen Barrett-Hague ( left) and Viridor managing director Phillip Piddington (right) leave Plymouth Crown Court on the first day of the trial

Mr Cocks said that he showed Mr Jane where to park at the hospital when he started at the company nine years before the tragedy. He added that it was normally very quiet when they collected the ash, sometimes as early as 4.30am.

The court heard that Mr Jane’s lorry and trailer went forwards over two zebra crossings, crossed a road junction and demolished some railings before crashing into the hospital radio building at 7am on June 8, 2015. Mr Jane, from Higher Compton, was killed almost instantly.

The scene of the incident where Lee Jane lost his lifeThe scene of the incident where Lee Jane lost his life

Viridor Waste Management has gone on trial after pleading not guilty to three breaches of the 1972 Health and Safety at Work Act on or before the tragedy. The company has previously denied failing to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of employees, including Mr Jane on and before the date of the accident.

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Viridor also pleaded not guilty to failing to ensure the safety of non-employees, ie staff or members of the public, on site.

The company is also accused of failing to make adequate risk assessments.

The trial continues.

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