Bin lorry driver on trial following '˜fatal manoeuvre'
A JURY heard that a bin lorry driver, accused of causing the death of a stroke victim by reversing into his electric mobility scooter, made the fatal manoeuvre to let another vehicle pass on a narrow country road, but did not use a 'banksman' to check behind him before he did so.
Scott Hamilton had to back to give an oncoming Audi space to get by on a single track road at Sheriffmuir, near Dunblane, Perthshire.
Mr Hamilton, 44, was driving a Stirling Council lorry, emptying recycling boxes, when the incident occurred on December 3 2014.
The High Court in Stirling heard that he put the lorry into reverse after asking his assistant, Lee McEwan, then only 18, to check the nearside mirror, but neither of them noticed that retired teacher Peter Wills, 80, who used his scooter daily to watch wildlife and red kites near his home on Sheriffmuir, was behind them.
Mr McEwan, now 20, said the 7.5 tonne truck collided with Mr Wills’ 4-miles-per-hour scooter with a “thud”.
He said they had passed Mr Wills on his scooter a little earlier and he immediately realised what had happened.
He said: “We had to reverse to give the Audi space to get through.
“Scott just says if I could see anything in my mirror and I said ‘no’ and he put the motor into reverse.
“It was just a split second thing. He put it into reverse and then it just happened.
“We assumed there was nothing there.
“We went back a few yards and then we heard the thud.
“Obviously I had seen him at the bottom of the road, and that was the first thing that came into my head.
“I thought, oh no, it must have been him.
“You think the worst, and we jumped out, and it was the worst.”
Mr McEwan said Mr Wills’ scooter was lodged between two beams at the back of the lorry, and Mr Wills was on the road, with “blood gushing out of his head”.
He phoned 999, and Hamilton gave Mr Wills CPR until the emergency services arrived.
Paramedics went to the scence at 10.05 am.
They found Mr Wills unconscious and with no pulse, and chest compressions were already being performed on him by Hamilton as he lay on his back in the road.
They took over until several doctors arrived by police helicopter, and he was pronounced dead at 10.42.
A post mortem revealed he died of multiple broken ribs, and a broken neck, which would have impacted his spinal cord and stopped him breathing.
Mr McEwan told the advocate depute, Jane Farquharson, that he had received training in the role of “banksman”, or reversing assistant, from Stirling Council eight months earlier, but he claimed that because the lorry they were using was “smaller than the normal recycling lorries” it did not need a banksman to reverse.
He said: “I wasn’t asked to be a banksman on that vehicle, I was just emptying boxes.
“If I was asked to be that, I’d have done that. I was only an apprentice at the time.”
He added that after the incident he and Hamilton had “done their best” to try to save Mr Wills.
The driver of the Audi, Iain Dick, 60, said that at the point where he met the lorry, it was much easier for the lorry to reverse than it would have been for him.
He said he could see the bin lorry driver’s face.
He said: “I could sense that there could be a little bit of frustration that I was there, and was something that had to be overcome.”
The lorry went back about two metres, and he heard a “grating sound”.
Mr Dick said: “It was obvious that there was something on the road that was being crushed.
“I thought, ‘dash it, they’ve reversed into a bin’.”
The bin lorry driver “looked agitated,” got out, went round the back of the lorry, and came back “extremely agitated”.
Mr Dick said he realised something serious had happened, and got out and went round the back of the lorry himself.
What he saw there had “a deep impact on him”.
He said: “It was shocking, something I had never seen in my life before and hope never to see again.”
He said there were “the remains” of the scooter, and Mr Wills lying on the ground “in very serious distress”.
Hamilton was crying and said words to the effect of “I didn’t see him, I didn’t see him”.
Earlier, Mr Wills’s widow Viriginia told the jury that her 50-year marriage to Mr Wills had been “paradise”.
She said her husband had been left paralysed down one side and without speech after a stroke eight years before his death, but was still “more like a man of 60 than 80”.
Mrs Wills, now 80 herself, a mother of three and a grandmother, said Mr Wills “revelled in his independence” and would spend up to two hours every day out on his electric scooter near their isolated home “high in the hills” above Dunblane.
She said she sometimes “ran beside him” but on the morning of the incident she had stayed at home to saw logs to get a fire going for his return when she noticed a helicopter flying low above their home and became worried.
She said “jumped in her car” to see what was happening, and came across a policeman.
Composed in the witness box, she told the court: “They took me back to the house, and wouldn’t let me back until they had prepared the body on the road.”
Hamilton, of Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire, denies causing death by dangerous driving.
He is said to have caused his lorry to collide with Mr Wills’ motorised wheelchair in the incident on Sheriffmuir Road, near Dunblane, by reversing without taking “adequate steps” to ensure it was safe and the road behind him was clear, and without using and being guided by a trained banksman provided for the purpose.
The court heard that since the tragedy, Stirling Council recycling lorries had been fitted with sensors to warn their drivers of obstacles behind them.
The trial, before Lord Ericht, is expected to last several days.