Fatal A14 crash lorry driver in court

A LORRY driver was “completely unaware” of what was ahead of him for the 30 seconds before a pile up that killed an eight-year-old boy, a court has heard.

Will Clarke

A LORRY driver was “completely unaware” of what was ahead of him for the 30 seconds before a pile up that killed an eight-year-old boy, a court has heard.

Michael Coombes, 61, of St Mary's, Stowmarket, appeared at Cambridge Crown Court yesterday charged with causing the death of William Elbrow by dangerous driving in May 2007.

The jury heard that Coombes, who denies the offence, was travelling eastbound along the A14 near Bottisham on May 4 when he failed to brake in time for standing traffic.


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Charles Myatt, outlining the prosecution's case, described how the events of that afternoon led to the death of the eight-year-old boy, who was on a holiday trip to the coast.

The road had been reduced to one lane at around 2pm after another lorry driver's brakes unexpectedly failed.

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The police then put out cones to direct the traffic around the hazard, the court was told.

Mr Myatt also described how three other similar vehicles' records preceding and following Coombes's articulated Scania lorry took up to 38 seconds to slow down.

But he told the jury that Coombes's tachograph readings showed no reaction until moments before the impact.

He said the records from onboard the lorry showed it was travelling in excess of 55mph when it collided with the Elbrow family's Mitsubishi pick up truck and the caravan it was towing.

Simon Elbrow, William's father, had spotted the approaching HGV and was using his hazard lights when he tried desperately to avoid a collision by driving into a ditch, he told the court.

“Three other HGVs were able to react in good time to an obvious and visible hazard - to suggest Mr Coombes's view was different is nonsense,” Mr Myatt said. “These drivers were all in the same high cabs travelling along the same stretch of road.

“The traffic was plain and clear for all to see if they cared to look but Mr Coombes was completely and utterly unaware.

“It (Coombes's driving) falls far below what you would expect. This was much more than a momentarily lapse of concentration, it was prolonged and persistent.”

William was killed instantly beside his six-year-old brother and three-year-old sister while his parents were in the front of the vehicle.

The case continues today.

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