Family issue safety plea over trailers after inquest into death of Coltishall man

PUBLISHED: 18:34 06 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:43 26 February 2014

The family of a man who died after being knocked over by a runaway trailer have called on owners to make sure they check they are secured after an inquest heard the locking handle was not in position.

Roger Collins, 72, was walking with his “constant companion” Guy, a springer spaniel, along the B1354 Wroxham Road, close to the King’s Head pub in Coltishall, when a trailer came loose from a car, careered onto the pavement and ran him over, on November 13, 2012.

Mr Collins, from White Lion Road, Coltishall, was airlifted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, with severe head injuries, and later transferred to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, where he died on January 1, 2013.

An inquest held in Norwich heard an investigation into the crash carried out by Norfolk police’s serious collision investigation team found that the locking handle on the trailer was in the unlocked position, while there was also no secondary coupling or breakaway cable attached.

PC Paul Cant, who investigated the crash, told the inquest that had the trailer, which is thought to have been made before there was a legal requirement for them to have a secondary coupling, been connected properly to the car, it would have been “almost impossible” for it to have disconnected.

Speaking after the hearing Mr Collins’ second cousin, Gill Riley, who also lives in Coltishall, called on owners of all types of trailer – old or new – to check that they are correctly connected.

She said: “It’s tragic. It shouldn’t have happened. I would urge all trailer owners to make sure they check their trailers. It shouldn’t have happened to him. He was just walking his dog. He didn’t deserve it.”

The inquest heard that Mr Collins, who was born in London but lived in Coltishall, died as a result of infected bronchial pneumonia with severe head injuries almost two months after being hit by the trailer at Coltishall.

Mr Collins, a bachelor, was no more than 200 yards from his home, when he was hit by the trailer, which was being towed by a green Skoda Octavia, at about 3.30pm.

Giving evidence at the inquest, Jonathan Champion, the driver of the Skoda and owner of the trailer, said his boss, Matthew Hall, had connected the trailer to the back of the car at Wroxham. Mr Champion said he offered to help connect the trailer but was told by Mr Hall that it was “fine” and so they carried on their journey.

He told the inquest he normally hitched the trailer, but on that day said it “seemed to make sense” that Mr Hall did it as he had towed a trailer for “many, many years” and was “much more experienced at towing trailers”.

Mr Hall, who said it was the first time he had used this particular trailer, said he lifted it on and “it felt like it fitted in properly”.

Mr Hall was asked if he thought he should have checked the trailer was properly connected to which he replied: “I should’ve taken more care because it was not connected and I was the one who connected it.”

Mr Hall added that he would be happy to have the trailer destroyed if Mr Collins’ family were in agreement.

Assistant coroner David Osborne concluded that Mr Collins died as a result of a road traffic collision and offered his condolences to Mr Collins’ family.

Jonathan Champion appeared at Norwich Crown Court in October last year where he admitted a charge of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving and was sentenced to a 12-month community order, disqualified from driving for a year, ordered to carry out 80 hours unpaid work and told to pay £500 costs and a victim surcharge.

Would you like to pay tribute to a loved one? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email

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