Haulier denies manslaughter after pontoon fell on docker

Ipswich Crown Court.

Ipswich Crown Court. - Credit: Archant

A man was crushed to death at Ipswich docks after a haulier, who was in a rush, forgot to use vital equipment to stabilise his lorry loader, it has been alleged.

Ipswich Crown Court heard that Neville Wightman, 52, of Penzance Road, Kesgrave, died after a pontoon weighing more than a tonne landed on him when the lorry from which it was being unloaded tipped over.

Stephen Burden, from Lowestoft, who was standing on the lorry jumped from the vehicle as he felt the pontoons slipping beneath him and was seriously injured after one of them landed on his back, said William Carter, prosecuting.

Before the court is Paul Napier, 49, of Inglenook, Clacton. He has denied the manslaughter of Mr Wightman on December 16, 2011.

The court 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.


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Mr Carter claimed that Napier had been in a rush to unload the pontoons after being delayed in traffic and hadn't taken the 'essential and elementary' step of extending stabilising legs on either side of his lorry when using the crane on the vehicle. He said an expert on lorry loaders who had prepared a report following Mr Wightman's death had been critical of the condition of Napier's vehicle and also of the way the lifting operation was carried out.

'The prosecution allegation is acting as he did was grossly negligent on Mr Napier's part,' said Mr Carter.

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Napier told police in a prepared statement that he had been distracted by a conversation with one of the men helping him unload the pontoons and had forgotten to lower the stabilising legs on his lorry.

The trial continues today (Tuesday).

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