Monday, January 7, 2008

Tractor driver 'knew of danger' COURT:

Tractor driver 'knew of danger' COURT: Jury hears how Milford Haven port manager killed after runaway trailer hit his car.(News)


THE former manager of the port where the Sea Empress disaster unfolded bled to death after a runaway trailer hit his car, a court heard.

The runaway trailer broke free from farmer Keith Knight's tractor and smashed into Mike Hislop's green Honda Coupe as he travelled to a cemetery.

At Swansea Crown Court, 46-yearold Knight of Castle Pill Farm, Steynton, Milford Haven, denied causing Mr Hislop's death by dangerous driving. Geraint Walters, prosecuting, has told the court that Knight knew the tow bar bolt in his tractor was dangerous but had taken a chance by using it.

He told the jury members, "The danger would have been obvious to you, me and the defendant, he took a gamble and, as a result, the life of Mr Hislop who was manager of Milford Haven Port Authority.

"Mr Knight had set off on his journey with a complete, utter disregard for safety, this was an accident waiting to happen."

Knight told police after the accident that the state of the road was to blame. He said he had earlier complained to the local authority about poor maintenance though no record of the complaint could be traced.

Opening the prosecution case, Mr Walters said speed did not play a part in the tragedy and the crown did not complain about the manner of Knight's driving. But, said Mr Walters, the defendant seemed "oblivious" to the risk he was taking in attaching the trailer in a dangerous manner.

Knight watched in horror as the trailer separated from his tractor, wandered to the right then overtook him as he descended a hill.

Shortly before, Mr Hislop had picked up a friend, Liz Collins, bound for a weekend in London.

He had given her a bunch of flowers a few days before and she wanted to place them on her parents' grave at Thornton Road Cemetery, Milford Haven, before setting off.

As they approached the entrance to the cemetery they were confronted by a road completely blocked by the approaching trailer on one carriageway and the tractor on the other. Mr Hislop, at the wheel of his Honda, tried to swerve left up an embankment but a corner of the trailer crashed into the driver's side of the car. He suffered broken ribs and a lacerated liver and died of loss of blood before a helicopter could get him to hospital.

Mr Walters said the tow bar was fractured which allowed "excessive play" at the point of joining. In addition, he said, the fracture meant a bolt did not protrude far enough for a securing lynch pin to be fitted. He said the amount of rust inside the barrel of the bolt showed no pin had been fitted.

The effect, he said, was that the trailer bounced along the road and worked itself free. The case continues.

Witness saw trailer 'bounce'

WITNESS Kate Thomas told the court she caught up with Knight in Thornton Road while driving her parents's Ford Fiesta.

Knight overtook her and Miss Thomas followed him along the road.

Shortly after, the jury heard, the trailer began to "bounce" and to sway from side to side.

After rounding a bend it separated from the tractor and Miss Thomas saw Knight looking back.

As the trailer overtook Knight's tractor he appeared to put his hand up as a "stop" sign to oncoming traffic.

After the accident she borrowed another motorist's mobile phone to call the police.


VICTIM: Mike Hislop

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