I'll never forgive him for robbing my girls.(News)
Byline: By Jamie Diffley
A partner of a mum killed when a runaway trailer ploughed into her today said he blames the boss of the haulage company.
An inquest yesterday recorded a verdict of accidental death into the incident which killed 33-year-old Wendy Smith four years ago.
Miss Smith, of Halton Lea Gate, near Haltwhistle, was mown down in front of her two young daughters when the 3.5 tonne trailer broke loose from a lorry towing it.
North Cumbria deputy coroner David Osbourne said the accident could have been avoided if legislation had been in place to ensure trailers were properly maintained.
He said it "beggars belief" there was currently no law for haulage bosses to do so and pledged to write to government agencies to take up the matter.
Company boss William James Fletcher, of James Fletcher Ltd, refused to attend the two-day inquest.
The coroner heard that a safety cable was fitted when the lorry and trailer was sold to Fletcher's company and the fact it was missing was a major factor into the accident in September 1999.
In 2000 Fletcher, of County Durham, was fined pounds 2,750 by Hexham Magistrates after admitting the unsafe condition of his lorry had led to the tragedy. He also has to pay pounds 250 costs.
He had originally been charged with manslaughter but that charge was dropped due to lack of evidence.
The lorry also had faulty brakes.
The lorry's driver John Armstrong Stanley, was fined pounds 300 and ordered to pay pounds 50 costs for driving a faulty vehicle and not having a proper licence.
He also refused to attend the inquest.
Today Miss Smith's partner Richard Johnson said: "I was hoping for more than accidental death at the inquest after what happened.
"Because of Fletcher my daughters were robbed of a mother and Wendy's family has been robbed of a daughter and a sister.
"He only has himself to blame for what happened.
The driver to some extent is at fault but he was just driving the lorry which his boss told him to. We will never forgive Fletcher."
The couple's daughters Nicola and Chelcie were standing just yards away when their mum was killed on the A689 at around 4.30pm.
The young girls, who were 10 and four at the time, were out with their mum buying sweets when the trailer uncoupled from the truck and smashed into Miss Smith.
The force of the crash demolished a stone wall by the roadside and a telegraph pole.
The road was closed for three hours while emergency services attended the scene.
Miss Smith was taken to Cumberland Infirmary, in Carlisle, where she later died from her injuries.
Nicola, now 14, is still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress.
Mr Johnson, 34, is slowly rebuilding his life with new partner Pat Morrison but the inquest - which took four years to come to court - had dragged up a sorrowful past.
He said: "I hope this will be the final chapter now. If the inquest had been carried out soon after I could have got on with things, but I always knew it was coming.
"We are slowly getting by. The whole village has been brilliant and Pat has really helped me through it. We just want to get on with our lives."