A Harrogate lorry driver has been jailed for causing death by careless driving after his refuse wagon toppled over and killed an elderly motorist.
Steven Beecroft, 30, was going too fast as he approached a slight bend on a country road where the truck started swaying out of control, a jury at York Crown Court heard.
The wagon toppled over onto the wrong side of the road, into the path of a red Skoda driven by David Guest, who worked in the Yorkshire Dales.
Mr Guest, who was in his 60s and from Otley, had “no chance” of avoiding the collision and suffered fatal injuries.
Beecroft and his colleague Michael Middleton were trapped inside the cab of the wagon and had to be freed by emergency services, said prosecutor David Gordon.
Beecroft suffered a serious arm injury and Mr Middleton, who ended up in the driver’s side after the truck rolled onto its side, suffered a broken shoulder blade and cuts and bruises. He was airlifted to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough and had to take six weeks off work after being discharged.
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Beecroft, who worked for Harrogate Borough Council, was off work for 15 months following the collision between Greenhow and Blubberhouses on April 19, 2016. At one stage, it seemed likely he would lose his arm, but surgeons at St James’s Hospital in Leeds managed to save it.
He was charged with causing death by careless driving but denied the offence, claiming he hadn’t been driving too fast and that the refuse wagon had lost control after wobbling as it went over a strip of resurfacing Tarmac near the curve in the road.
During his trial, it emerged that Beecroft and his colleague had been to collect trade waste from Greenhow Quarry before the accident. On the way back, they were travelling on a country road towards Blubberhouses when the back end of the lorry started swaying from side to side as it went around the curve in the road.
Mr Middleton told the court he saw the oncoming Skoda which was being driven “in a proper manner (and) on the correct side of the road”.
He said that as the lorry “swayed from left to right… I closed my eyes… and I realised we were going over”.
Beecroft - who had worked for the council for 11 years and had 18 months’ experience driving that type of lorry - “tried desperately” to correct the vehicle but it lurched over to the right and tipped over, striking the Skoda with “a massive, crashing, glancing blow”.
An expert estimated the lorry’s speed to have been about, or just over, 50mph as it negotiated the bend. The speed limit on that stretch of road for lorries of that type was 50mph, but Beecroft was said to have been driving too fast for the conditions.
Mr Guest’s wife Margaret Elizabeth, a retired nurse, said her “much-loved, conscientious” husband of 45 years worked in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and never took a day off work.
She said they were “never apart” and Mr Guest, a father-of-two, was due to walk his daughter down the aisle just months after the accident. The couple had also been looking forward to a holiday in Menorca.
Defence barrister Paul Cleasby said that Beecroft, of Stonecrop Drive, Harrogate, hadn’t driven since the fatal crash. Before the accident, he had never picked up so much as a penalty point.
Mr Cleasby said Beecroft would almost certainly lose his job with the council if he were convicted.
The jury found Beecroft guilty on Thursday following a three-day trial.
Jailing him for nine months, judge Simon Hickey said that as an experienced, professional driver, Beecroft “must have known” that the refuse lorry had a “propensity to tip”.
“You were driving too fast as you approached that bend, having been driving too fast earlier on,” said Mr Hickey.
“He (Mr Guest) had absolutely no chance. He was clearly blameless and no sentence that I pass can begin to compensate (Mrs Guest) in any way.”
Beecroft was also given a two-year driving ban.
Detective Sergeant Jeremy Bartley, of North Yorkshire Police, said afterwards: “This was a horrendous collision that has shattered a family’s lives forever. One of the saddest things is that it was entirely avoidable.
“My thoughts are very much with Mr Guest’s widow and family and I hope today’s sentence helps provide some closure on their horrific ordeal.”