Sunday 22 October 2017

Four dead after tipper truck goes out of control in Bath

Martin Evans, and Gordon Rayner

A young girl is among the four people who died when a tipper truck collided with vehicles and pedestrians on a steep hill in Bath.

Police have described how a tipper truck loaded with gravel went out of control on a steep hill in the city and careered into cars and bystanders.

Police stand in front of a tipped over lorry after the tipper truck collided with vehicles and pedestrians on a hill in Lansdown Lane in Upper Weston in Bath
Police stand in front of a tipped over lorry after the tipper truck collided with vehicles and pedestrians on a hill in Lansdown Lane in Upper Weston in Bath
Police stand in front of a tipped over lorry after the tipper truck collided with vehicles and pedestrians on a hill in Lansdown Lane in Upper Weston in Bath
Police close the road near to the scene of an incident after a tipper truck collided with vehicles and pedestrians on a hill in Lansdown Lane in Upper Weston in Bath
The scene of a tipped over lorry after the tipper truck collided with vehicles and pedestrians on a hill in Lansdown Lane in Upper Weston in Bath
The scene of a tipped over lorry after the tipper truck collided with vehicles and pedestrians on a hill in Lansdown Lane in Upper Weston in Bath
The scene of a tipped over lorry after the tipper truck collided with vehicles and pedestrians on a hill in Lansdown Lane in Upper Weston in Bath

Witnesses described how the lorry appeared to suffer a brake failure and then gather speed, hitting parked cars and walls as the driver hurtled down the hill struggling to bring the vehicle under control.

The lorry eventually crashed after failing to negotiate a bend as the road narrowed close to a primary school on Lansdown Lane.

Five people including the driver were treated in hospital. One adult pedestrian is said to have been critically injured and three others are described as "walking wounded".

 The young girl killed in the incident is thought to be just six years old and is believed to have been walking along the road with her mother and grandmother.

The driver is thought to have been thrown through the windscreen when the truck tipped over, landing on top of a black car.

Witnesses said it was feared three people who had been travelling in the car had been killed.

There were also reports that pedestrians, including parents who had been collecting children from the nearby school, were among those injured.

The incident comes just weeks after a bin lorry ran out of control in Glasgow, killing six people including three members of the same family.

People living just yards from the scene described hearing a noise “like a bomb going” off and said they were greeted with a scene of complete carnage as they ran from their homes to help the victims.

An air ambulance took the most seriously injured to Southmead Hospital in Bristol, while others were taken by road to the Royal United Hospital in Bath.

The driver of the lorry is reported to have sounded his horn as the vehicle veered out of control on Lansdown Lane, according to witnesses.

Families in the street have confirmed that they heard a lorry "constantly beeping" before a huge smash.

The witnesses said onlookers rushed to the nearby Weston All Saints Primary to fetch help, and bodies in the road were covered with blankets.

It is believed the school was turned into a makeshift medical centre to treat the wounded.

The lane has a 20 per cent gradient at the top and a width restriction of 6ft on vehicles.

Parents speculated that the lorry's breaks had failed and locals said that school children were thought to be among those injured or killed.

One woman, who ran outside when she heard the crash, said: "It woke me up and it was the kind of sound you don't hear everyday.

"It was a loud rumble and then all of a sudden all you could hear was a lorry that started beeping constantly and then there was a loud bang and the beeping stopped.

"I think he was trying to warn people he couldn't stop.

 "I couldn't see anything so I ran out in my pyjamas. There was a bus stopped and the driver was a bit shaken up.

"He saw it and someone took him into their house for a cup of tea."

The 21-year-old woman added: "I asked a woman who was there what happened and she said there was a truck and people and it was a mess.

"There was someone lying in the road with a blanket over them. I've never seen anything like that before. I could see there was a red car all smashed up.

Another resident, a 37-year-old, said residents suspected the brakes on the lorry failed.

The mother of two, who lives 100 yards from the accident spot, said: "My friend from up the road was first on the scene and she went straight to get someone from the school when she saw it.

"The police came to see us and they said it was quite hard to find witnesses.

"If it had been half four it would have been worse with all the kids coming out of the after school clubs.

"Maybe the brakes went. The sound that he was making before makes it sound like that.

"You just thank god it's not one of your children. There are however many families out there suffering tonight. It's so sad."

 The road was cordoned off with white plastic sheeting hung across the road between traffic lights.

The area inside was lit up and what looked like sand bags littered the road. The crash sight is in a dip in the road, approached on both sides by steep hills.

A 66-year-old woman who lives in a house opposite to where the lorry came to rest said: “My whole house shook, with a terrific noise like a bomb going off. I rushed outside and it was just mayhem.

"The lorry was on its side on top of a black car, and I was told three people in the black car had died.

“The gravel from the lorry was all over the road and the fire brigade arrived and cut the bodies free from the wreckage.

“The lorry had hit lots of other cars on its way down the hill, and I was told there was a grandmother, mother and daughter walking along the pavement and that the little girl had been killed when the lorry mounted the pavement.

“Other people were injured in cars that the lorry hit, and there were injured people everywhere you looked. It was horrendous. I'm still shaking now.

“The lorry seemed to have had brake failure and it came to rest on the corner of Brookfield Park. It demolished the walls of all the houses on the corner and two workmen said the driver shot through the windscreen.”

 She added: “It was an accident waiting to happen. I have complained to the police before about these heavy lorries going up and down the lane. It is too steep and too narrow for such big, heavy vehicles and there is supposed to be a six-foot width restriction on the lane but they just ignore it.”

Another resident said: “It was school run time and I was told that at least one of the people killed was a child.

“It's a 20mph limit all the way down the lane and when you stand at the bottom of the road you can smell the lorries' brakes burning.

“It's supposed to be no vehicles over 6ft wide but the lorries have been using it as a shortcut for years and no-one has ever done anything about it. Maybe they will now, but that's not going to help those poor people who have died.”

Another local described seeing the lorry hurtle down the hill out of control with the horn blaring.

He said: “I saw the lorry go past, it was going quite fast and was obviously out of control. The driver was sounding the horn and overtook another quarry lorry. It was clear he could not stop.”

Chief Superintendent Caroline Peters said it is understood the tipper truck, which was carrying aggregate building materials, lost control as it travelled downhill and hit two pedestrians and other vehicles as the driver tried to avert an accident.

Speaking at the crash scene she said: "Unfortunately we are dealing with a very tragic collision here that has had four people lose their lives.

"We believe a tipper has been coming downhill, down Lansdown Lane here in Bath.

"We think it has lost control and made attempts to avert an accident. However, it has made contact with two pedestrians as they have gone down hill, and a number of other vehicles, and sadly we have lost four people here at the collision site."

She said police were treating the crash as a "critical incident" and have launched an investigation into what caused it.

Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, described the incident as "obviously devastating, tragic and awful".

"The community is in shock, both for the families of those killed and also those who have been affected," Mr Foster said.

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