Ipswich: Court hears lorry loader involved in port tragedy was poorly maintained

Haulier elected not to give evidence

Haulier elected not to give evidence

A LORRY loader which tipped over at Ipswich Docks and crushed a man to death was poorly maintained and should not have been making a delivery on the day of the tragedy, it has been alleged.

Alan Johnson, technical director for the Association of Lorry Loader Manufacturers and Importers (ALLMI) told a jury that the vehicle had a number of defects but accepted they had not caused the lorry to tip over,

He said the fact that stabilising legs had not been lowered was to blame.

Mr Johnson was giving evidence on the fifth day of the trial of Essex haulier Paul Napier, 48, of Inglenook, Clacton-on-Sea, who has denied the manslaughter of port worker Neville Wightman shortly before Christmas in 2011.

Mr Wightman, 52, of Penzance Road, Kesgrave, was crushed to death under a pontoon which slid off Napier’s lorry loader when it tipped over.

Asked by prosecution counsel William Carter if any of the defects were contributing factors to the lorry falling over Mr Johnson replied: “I’ve made it clear in every every report they were not contributory. In my opinion they were indicative of poor maintenance and lack of pre-operative checking.”

He said the reason the lorry had overturned was because stabilising legs had not been extended before a crane on the vehicle was used to unload a pontoon.

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Questioned by Nigel Lithman QC for Napier Mr Johnson accepted that no amount of pre-operative checks on the vehicle would have made Napier pull out the stabilising legs.

But Mr Johnson said that if the checks had been done the vehicle should have been “parked up and under repair” rather than making a delivery on the day in question.

Following Mr Wightman’s death Napier told police he could not understand how he had forgotten to lower stabilising legs before using a crane to unload his vehicle.

In a prepared statement to police Napier said that on the day of the tragedy he had been distracted on his arrival at Ipswich docks by chatting to Mr Wightman and his colleague Stephen Burden, who was also injured in the incident, and had not lowered the legs.

He said he had worked a 13-hour day and had been delayed by traffic on his way to Ipswich from Lincolnshire where he had picked up the pontoons which were on his lorry when it tipped over.

The trial continues.