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| Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK |
Runaway trailer was 'like a train'
A runaway trailer which crushed a man to death ran down a hillside "like a train", a court has heard.
Stephen Hayfield, 39, of Hallen, near Avonmouth, died from multiple injuries in November 2000, after the trailer became detached from its tractor.
Bristol Crown Court heard on Tuesday the trailer was put on the roads in a dangerous condition.
The owners of the trailer, Somerset-based agricultural contractors Dennis Clothier and Sons; one of the firm's directors, Julian Clothier, 33, of Chewton Mendip; and farm worker Simon Burrows, 27, of Bath, all deny the manslaughter of Mr Hayfield.
Mr Hayfield was in his car sheltering from the rain while on a fishing trip in the Mendip Hills when the vehicle was hit by the trailer.
The court heard farm worker Mr Burrows had been trying to tow the trailer - loaded with straw and weighing the equivalent of two double-decker buses - up a steep country lane.
As the tractor struggled up the hill, the hitch mechanism connecting the tractor to the trailer failed under the strain.
Paul Garlick, prosecuting, said: "He (Mr Hayfield) must have seen the trailer careering down the hill towards him and he decided to abandon his car.
"Sadly that decision to abandon his car cost him his life."
Mr Hayfield stumbled as he tried to escape and was struck by the trailer as it veered towards him.
Mr Garlick said all three defendants were guilty of "gross negligence" because they should have known that the hitch mechanism on the tractor and trailer was "badly worn" and that there was a "real risk" it could become detached.
Mr Burrows was the regular driver of the unit and had attached the trailer himself on the morning of the crash, the court heard.
Mr Clothier carried out maintenance on the company's vehicles and should have noticed the defects which, he said, were "obvious to the naked eye", Mr Garlick said.
A failsafe system which could have slowed or even stopped the trailer was not connected at the time of the crash, he said.
"There was no way at all it could be stopped from careering down the hill just like a train," he said.
Mr Burrows even telephoned Mr Clothier to ask for help after the first failed attempt, but had decided to have another go while he was waiting.
"To take a load out such as this on a public highway and tow it up a hill not once but twice, amounts to a criminal act," said Mr Garlick.
The trial continues.
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