Remembering how Bath Tipper truck tragedy 'completely affected' whole community
“I could tell it was serious because people just looked shocked and they were standing around.” Journalist Amanda Cameron was the first reporter on the scene after an out of control tipper lorry crashed into pedestrians and cars on a steep Bath street, killing four people five years ago. Bath four year old Mitzi Steady, Stephen Vaughan, 34, of Swansea, south Wales, and Philip Allen, 52, and Robert Parker, 59, both of Cwmbran, south Wales all lost their lives.
Amanda, like others, vividly remembers the day that shocked the city. Now a local democracy reporter based at The Bristol Post for BBC media partners she said: “I remember it was a freezing cold day, when I got there we didn’t really know what had happened. “We just knew there was a big incident.
“I went up to a few people to ask what had happened but no one was saying much. I didn’t approach people twice, if they said no I completely backed off.
Mitzi Steady was killed in the tragedy (Image: PA)
Upon finding out what had happened Amanda reflected: “It was just awful, I remember Alex Brown, my editor, seeing the photo of Mitzi, he just put his head in his hands – this gorgeous cute little girl. “Alex was really firm on how we had to handle the story, we wanted to do it sensitively and we did – he was great and led us really well.”
Amanda then had to cover the story as it went through the courts for two years, live blogging the process. “It was a really technical case as it was about the brakes, if they had worked or not and who was responsible. “It was less emotional in that way.
I was glad when the jury decided to find the young driver not guilty.” Philip Potter was the driver of the tipper truck which lost control on Lansdown Lane in Weston on Monday February 9 2015. He was only 19 at the time of the tragedy.
Matthew Gordon, the owner of the haulage company and Peter Wood, the mechanic, were each convicted of four counts of manslaughter. Gordon was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison, and Wood to five years and three months in January 2017.
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Another journalist from the time who was involved in the coverage is Sian David. She is now Bristol Post Digital Editor but was Chief Sub Editor for the Bath Chronicle at the time of the tragedy.
She said: “It’s one of the stories you never forget. “Everyone in the news room was upset by it and shocked when we first heard the news.” Among other things, Sian was responsible for designing the front page.
“My thought was okay I have a part to play in this tragedy and I will do my absolute best to honour those involved. “Bath is a small place, its got a good community. I remember thinking we had to do justice to Mitzi’s family and cover this story respectfully and sensitively.
Sain said she remembered not wanting to do the same as other national news outlets because “we’re the local paper and we have a different role”. “As a regional we report on our readers and that makes our role different to others. It was Sian’s decision to go with the black and white picture of Mitzi that her primary school shared.
The Bath Chronicle’s front page on Thursday February 12. (Image: Bath Chronicle)
She said: “I didn’t think it was right to use the same picture as the nationals, we had to honour Mitzi and do right by her family.
“No one can imagine what it was, and is like for her family – it was unfathomable tragedy and absolutely aviodable. Sian added that the tragedy is one that she “will never forget” adding that it comes back to her at different times. She said: “It is one of those stories you will never forget reporting on.
“My thoughts still go out to Mitzi’s mum and dad and all of those who love her.”
Lansdown Lane where the accident happened (Image: Bath Chronicle/ Paul Gillis)
Alex Brown was head of content for the Bath Chronicle back in 2015. He said that the remembers the day well and recalled when the news team first became aware that there had been a crash. Alex recalled: “I remember it being a Monday afternoon, I was in a meeting with our editor Lynne Fernquest at the time.
“I remember our reporter Amanda Cameron poking her head in to say there was a reports of a large cannabis factory in Twerton and reports of a crash in Weston. “We didn’t know how bad the crash was but we said to go to that one first and then to Twerton. “Amanda then started to send back information when she had it, it was clear that it was extremely serious.”
Alex reflected that as journalists we often have to report crashes but that serious ones such as this makes a different set of training kick in. “It is really hard to describe the reaction of the team when we heard. “It was the kind of day when we all just lost track of time, normally on a shift I’d finish at 5 but the hours flew by and I looked up and it was hours later.”
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CRUSE Bereavement Care charity volunteers, who themselves have been affected by suicide, run a support group from 18.30 to 20.00 pm every third Wednesday in the month at Manvers Street Baptist Church. See details here:
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Telephone: 01225 831820 / www.wellbeingcollegebanes.co.uk Most courses are free and are offered to B&NES residents who are aged 16 and over, or people who are registered with a GP in B&NES. The team can also offer 1:1 support and guidance to help you find a course that suits your needs.
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B&NES Talking Therapies supports people who are feeling low, anxious, stressed or worried.
The service runs courses about improving wellbeing, and also offers one-to-one appointments either face-to-face or over the telephone. Part of the Talking Therapies service is a new Wellbeing Service for people with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, chronic pain, fibromyalgia and COPD. This service helps people to live well with their long-term health condition by supporting their psychological wellbeing and working together with physical health teams. Wellbeing Practitioners are located in GP Surgeries across B&NES.
Patients can self-refer, or where a little support may be needed to initiate contact, there is a referral form for health care professionals, which can be downloaded from the website. To book an appointment or for more information please call the team on 01225 675150 or visit the website.
Wellbeing Options is a free resource providing local information to support you to live a full and independent life. Find a lunch club, social club, local care providers, services near you to help you around the home, or activities and wellbeing courses.
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Suicide Salvation is a monthly support group – the first Thursday of every month, 18.30-20.30 at the Salvation Army, Radstock Road, Midsomer Norton, BA3 2AJ.
Ring Steph on 07543 001658 Alex said: “I remember the police were really helpful and handled it really well, they were great. They told us as much as they could and I was really impressed with them.
“When they sent through the picture of Mitzi and the tribute I was really affected. I didn’t know Mitzi Steady or any of the other victims but I remember looking at the photos and being affected. “But one of the lessons I learnt when I was training is that no matter how bad it is for us reporting it, its infinitely worse for those involved.
“It’s okay to be affected – and the day journalists aren’t they probably shouldn’t be journalists – but we have to remember the families and the people involved. “As the local paper our role was different to the national press, we report on our community and all we were focusing on was being completely respectful. “The whole community was completely affected by this tragedy.”
After being approached for Bath Live Alex said he read some articles written at the time back which “bought a lump in my throat”. “It really was absolutely horrendous.” Alex added that his colleagues as the time did a “fantastic job” of covering the story sensitively.
“What I will say is I’m proud of the team and our approach.
“My thoughts still go out to the families of those involved.”
- ^ Avon and Somerset Police (www.somersetlive.co.uk)
- ^ Crisis Services (www.mind.org.uk)
- ^ www.wellbeingcollegebanes.co.uk (www.wellbeingcollegebanes.co.uk)
- ^ downloaded from the website (iapt-banes.awp.nhs.uk)
- ^ visit the website (iapt-banes.awp.nhs.uk)
- ^ www.wellbeingoptions.co.uk (www.wellbeingoptions.co.uk)
- ^ Bath Live (www.somersetlive.co.uk)
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