Greedy haulage boss could have fixed killer lorry for £200
A greedy haulage company owner would have had to pay only GBP200 to fix the defective brakes of a lorry which crashed and killed two loved men. Michael Holgate, 39, has been jailed for 15 years after his actions in running an “entirely lawless” haulage company led to a fatal crash on the M62. On the morning of April 3, 2018, Nigel Eley, 41, and John-Paul Cassidy, 37, successful businessmen within the fashion industry, were driving to Hull to meet clients.
They would never return home. : Haulage company owner and lorry driver jailed over M62 crash that killed two men That morning, 22-year-old Jack Beston had embarked on a 580-mile journey to the south coast, transporting two mobile homes with a 31-tonne lorry he knew was not safe for travel.
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On March 19, just weeks earlier, Beston had noticed during a routine safety check that an ABS warning light had appeared on the dashboard and logged the issue through a navman system. In fact, he had logged the fault eight times before the crash, including on the morning of that fateful day. However, his employer Holgate, driven by greed, instructed him to carry on using the vehicle so he could continue to earn more money.
M62 crash victims John Paul Cassidy and Nigel Eley
“Opening the case, the prosecution said you were involved in an entirely lawless operation, a description that is entirely accurate,” said Justice Fraser at Hull Crown Court.
“These vehicles are sizeable. Maintenance is important. Maintenance of brakes is crucial.
“The vehicle driven by Mr Beston had seriously defected brakes on the trailer which were reported by him on several occasions.
“Despite this, the vehicle continued to be operated by you Mr Holgate and driven by you Mr Beston. “Your greed Mr Holgate was the driving force and you would not spend money on repairs or take them off road as it would reduce their earning capacity.” The court heard that the cost to fix the brakes on the vehicle would have only been around GBP200.
But from March 19 to April 3, the Scania truck continued to make journeys on defective brakes, travelling more than 3,000 miles in that time.
The caravan transporter involved in the M62 crash on the Ouse Bridge in 2018
It was not the only time Holgate had instructed his drivers to carry out journeys with faulty vehicles. In 2015, he was given a “serious warning” when one of his lorries had crashed into a Nissan Juke on a roundabout in Chichester due to faulty brakes, causing serious injuries to the driver. Holgate threatened the lorry driver at that time with the sack if he did not carry out the journey and was told to stop every 20 to 30 miles to plug and unplug the air hose to keep the brakes working.
Over a five-year period, 80 prohibition notices were issued against Holgate’s vehicles in relation to defective tyres and brakes.
Some of these notices were issued after the fatal crash in April 2018. “All this demonstrates the culture of dangerousness that pervaded your operations, even after this fatal accident,” said Justice Fraser. “You had no consideration for the safety of other road users and were interested only in your own profits.”
TRAGEDY ON THE M62: Emergency services at the scene of the crash near the Ouse Bridge
Holgate’s greed went further than that.
For all the vehicles in his fleet he would only insure drivers over the age of 25, despite hiring truckers at a younger age. Beston was driving without insurance whilst working for Holgate, something he only became aware of after the collision. “Mr Beston was 22 at the time, something you [Holgate] knew,” said Justice Fraser.
“You employed a number of young drivers and you did this because they were more compliant with your instructions. “If they refused you would threaten them with the sack. One witness said you bullied them in this way.”
On the morning of April 3, before reaching the M62, Beston had encountered four separate incidents where he had trouble with the brakes.
Twice they would become stuck and would not release and on two occasions he nearly collided with escorting vehicles. Audio recordings from the lorry captured Beston saying “I s*** my pants, it’s locked up right in the road. I’m braking and my front wheels are going all over the place.”
Minutes later he was heard saying “I’m just dragging it” and later he said: “There’s something going on with this wagon. Every time I f****** brake I’m holding on for dear life.”
Nigel Eley who died following a crash on the M62 Ouse Bridge
But Beston continued with the journey and eventually made it on to the M62. Shortly after 9am, Beston applied the brakes on the Ouse Bridge near Goole which caused the lorry to jacknife.
The HGV tore through the crash barriers of the central reservation and into the path of oncoming traffic on the eastbound carriageway. Mr Eley, driving a Lexus SUV with Mr Cassidy in the front passenger seat, had “no chance” of avoiding the impact, with experts suggesting that the closing speed of the collision was around 100mph.
The lorry had missed a silver Mercedes “by a hair’s breadth” with the driver stating his only chance of escape was to accelerate onto the hard shoulder. “The SUV had no chance,” said the driver. “He was doing nothing wrong.
“In fact, the SUV hitting the lorry changed it’s path and quite possibly saved me.” Another lorry had to slam on its brakes to avoid a collision with the out of control HGV, stopping just a metre away from a mobile home which “sprawled across the carriageway like a wall”.
John-Paul Cassidy who died following a crash on the M62 Ouse Bridge (Image: Humberside Police)
Mr Eley was killed instantly whereas Mr Cassidy was taken to Hull Royal Infirmary by air ambulance. Doctors performed surgery to a major head injury when he arrived but admitted to Mr Cassidy’s family “he would have no quality of life if he pulled through”.
Twelve days later, his family made the difficult decision to turn off his life support machine.
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Beston, of Duncombe Drive in Driffield, pleaded guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving in October 2020. He appeared at Hull Crown Court on Tuesday (June 29) where it was heard Beston had expressed “genuine and deep-seated remorse”. Standing alongside Beston in the dock was his employer Holgate who had been found guilty of two counts of manslaughter through gross negligence after a trial last week.
He had also been found guilty of two counts of causing death whilst uninsured and admitted to one offence under the Health and Safety Work Act back in May. Sentencing Holgate to 15 years in prison, Justice Fraser said the collision was “entirely foreseeable and wholly avoidable”. The judge saw Beston as being “far less culpable” for what happened that day and that he was working as a driver “fearful of losing his job if he did not comply”.
Beston was sentenced to six years in prison.
He will also be disqualified from driving for five years after his release, however, Mr Robinson told the court that Beston is “unlikely to drive any vehicle again”.
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