Ipswich: Haulier forgot to put out stabilising legs on his lorry loader, court hears
A HAULIER whose lorry tipped over at Ipswich docks resulting in a man being crushed to death told police he could not understand how he had forgotten to lower stabilising legs before using a crane to unload his vehicle.
Paul Napier told officers investigating the death of 52-year-old Neville Wightman that it would have been “standard practice” for him to lower the stabilisers.
In a prepared statement 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.
On his arrival at Ipswich he and his father, who had been travelling with him, put on high visibility jackets and he had picked up a remote control unit to operate the crane.
He had then unfastened chains securing the load and had “exchanged pleasantries” with Mr Wightman and Mr Burden. “If they hadn’t come over the next thing would have been to deploy the stabilising legs,” he said.
He said his routine had been interrupted and without realising the stabilisers were not in place he had used the remote control to start lifting a pontoon, weighing more than a tonne, from his lorry.
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“I have been doing this for 16 years and I have never operated the crane without deploying the stabilising legs,” he said.
He said there was no advantage to him in not using the stabilising legs as it was “inevitable” the lorry would tip over putting himself and other people at risk and putting his livelihood in jeopardy.
He said that when he saw the lorry start to tip over he had shouted to Mr Wightman, of Penzance Road, Kesgrave, to get out of the way.
He said immediately extended the crane on his lorry to prevent it tipping further and had reassured the injured men that help was on the way.
Napier, 48, of Inglenook, Clacton, has denied the manslaughter of Mr Wightman on December 16, 2011.
The court has heard that Napier had admitted an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act of failing to ensure that Mr Wightman and Mr Burden were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
Mr Wightman died after being crushed by a pontoon that slid of the lorry and Mr Burden, of Lowestoft suffered serious injuries to his pelvis after being trapped under the pontoon.
The trial continues today.