Driver VVas killed Instantly



in collision


Dungarvan Observer


A COUNTY Waterford man was killed instantly when his car was involved in a collision with the trailer of an articulated lorry in a pre-dawn accident on the Leamybrien ~ Carrick-on-Suir Road, the Circuit court heard in Waterford last week.Truck driver Stephen Kelly (26) of Ballycommon, the Rower, Co. Kilkenny; was found not guilty of dangerous driving causing the death of Graham Norris, Bramble Hill, Leamybrien, Kilmacthomas,

on October 12th, 2005 at Ashtown Cross,

The Jury of seven men and five women found him guilty of having no "under run" device on his semi-trailer and having no road worthiness certificate and failing to produce one. Not guilty verdicts were returned on charges of having no side lamps and failing to display side markings on the trailer.

Barrister Ml. Delaney, instructed by Frank Hutchinson, State Solr., for the DPP, said the accident occurred on the Leamybrien - Carrick-on-Suir road and involved a collision between a car driven by Graham Norris and the back of the semitrailer of the lorry driven by the defendant. Mr. 'Norris was travelling from Leamybrien towards Carrick~on-Suir and, the lorry came from the opposite direction.

The defendant' was in the course of making a very difficult left hand turning manoeuvre into a side road to collect a load of timber when the impact occurred. It was a very acute turn, less than 90 degrees and very sharp.

This presented the driver with some difficulty and it was inevitable that in the course of that manoeuvre the semi-trailer would be side-on across the road.

The car appeared to strike the back of the semi-trailer.

The Gardai examined the accident scene and found a brake mark of 57 feet leading up to the point of impact. An inspection of the semi-trailer showed it was not fitted with a rear under pin device, which was designed to stop the front of an ordinary car from going under the trailer. There were also problems with the sidelights. The one in the middle of the trailer was not working and the light at the back was obscured by a metal bar and was not visible. The reflective strip side markings were in a dirty condition and were not working properly.

Mr. Delaney, BL, said the combination of both the darkness and the semi-trailer positioned across the road would not have been visible to Mr. Norris and the absence of side lights took on a critical importance, he said.

Public Vehicles Inspector, Garda Joe Robinson said the under pin bar was similar to a bumper and was fitted to the side of trailers to stop a car from going under it. On the right side of the trailer the centre and rear lights were not working but the front light was functioning. The point of impact was one metre from the back end of the trailer.

The car was in good pre-accident condition but was a "write off' after the collision.

The driver's air bag did not inflate because the bottom front of the car went in under the trailer.

The trailer was 19 years old and it was very dirty and it could have been a lot brighter and cleaner.

In evidence Stephen Kelly said he lived with his fiancee and they had a three-year-old son. Since the year 2000 he worked as a lorry driver for James Lanigan who was the owner of the vehicle and prior to that he worked for Glanbia for two years.

For five or six months before the accident he was hauling timber from forests across the south of the country.

On the morning of the accident he got up at 5 a.m. and was out on the road at 6 a.m. heading for Ashtown, Co. Waterford. Before leaving he carried out routine checks on the lights. The three side lights on the right and left hand sides of the trailer were in working order. On the two previous days he made the same journey and before coming to Ashtown Cross, he stopped on his side of the road to allow an oncoming car to pass then he started to make the turn and went over to his incorrect side of the road and' turned into the mouth of the junction after making sure nothing was approaching.

The bend was 310 metres away and he felt he had plenty of time to get in off the road.

The tractor unit was in the side road when he saw the reflection of the oncoming lights of a car. When he had gone a good bit he heard the screech of brakes

and there was a bang as the car collided with the trailer.

After the collision he ran back to check and immediately rang the emergency services. A number of people arrived on the scene and he stopped traffic travelling in either direction.

Mr. Kelly agreed that hauling timber was dirty work and he washed the vehicle every weekend and the owner looked after the roadworthiness certificate.

He had never been in any trouble before and had no convictions.

When asked why the middle side light of the semi-trailer 'was not working after the accident the defendant said the only explanation was that it "blew" in the collision but the shock waves did not affect the side light nearest the tractor. He accepted his side markings were dirty. When the trailer was "side-on" and blocking the road he saw the lights of the approaching car. By the time the car came around the bend the cab was going into the side road and he assumed he trailer blocked the road.

Mr. Delaney, BL, said there was an onus on anybody who took a vehicle out onto the road to ensure that it was roadworthy and not a hazard. The defendant utterly failed to discharge that onus. He got into the cab at 6 am knowing the exact journey and manoeuvre he had to make in the hours of darkness when the trailer would be side on across the, road and not properly lit to alert oncoming motorists.

The deceased man was on his side of the road and was wearing his seat belt.

He took something approaching pride in the condition of his car. The defendant created a lethal situation for a motorist in the position of Mr. Norris and by the time he came around the bend 300 yards away the cab of the lorry was off the road and in the forest track.

The trailer would not have been apparent to him. A considerable portion of the trailer was across the road blocking the path of the car. There was virtually nothing on the trailer to alert the motorist as to its presence.

The tragic thing from Mr. Norris's point of view was that he almost got around the trailer. If he got his car another 18 inches or so to the left of the trailer he would be alive today but he did not have the opportunity to do so. Why did he brake so late in the day? The answer was that he didn't see the trailer because it was not properly lit.

There was a dispute whether the middle light on the trailer was working.

If it was not working there was only one light' on the side of the trailer and it would not tell him the road was blocked.

At the last minute he braked when he discovered the trailer.

   In an interview with the gardai three days after the accident, the defendant said he did not check any of he lights on the vehicle but he "back tracked" In court. When the gardai checked the middle light it was not working and the defendant "tried to "explain' or duck" that by saying that some kind of shock wave from the impact blew the bulb. One other feature of the case gave an insight into Mr. Kelly's attitude. He accepted there was no 'certificate of roadworthiness yet when' arraigned before the jury he pleaded not guilty to knowing he did not have a "leg to stand on". He did not seem to have the capacity to take responsibility in even the most trivial aspect of the case.

In his' closing speech, Mr. Cody said two young men roughly the same, age set out that morning from different parts of the country to         go to work.

As a result of tragic events one of them lost his 'life and the other was in the dock facing a serious charge. It was a sad and distressing case for the Jury to adjudicate on, and they would have to be hard hearted and made of stone not to have sympathy for the Norris family. The issue was not whether Mr. Norris's car was in better condition than the trailer. The issue was whether the State had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of dangerous driving. The manoeuvre into the forest track was difficult but it was not dangerous. The road was straight and Mr. Norris had a sight distance of 310 metres.

Mr. Cody said that by pleading not guilty the defendant Was not "brazening it out" or "fobbing off "the jury  but he was testing the

Evidence of the State.

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