Leading horseman killed in accident

NEW safety measures are today being drawn up after an eye witness described watching a seven and a half ton vehicle reverse over a pensioner in a Sudbury loading bay.


NEW safety measures are today being drawn up after an eye witness described watching a seven and a half ton vehicle reverse over a pensioner in a Sudbury loading bay.

Gerald Hazell, 74, a well-known Suffolk Punch horseman from Boxford, later died from his injuries after the accident in the service car park of a Sudbury store.

Estate agent Tracey Lee told a Bury St Edmunds inquest: "I was at the car park at the back I saw Mr Hazell walking up the road then a lorry was reversing. Then I saw the lorry knock the man down and drag him under the lorry.

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"The lorry driver didn't know what he had done, he carried on reversing. The man was lying there I went over to see if he was all right he was bleeding from his head  and had cuts on his arms."

Lorry driver Clive Skinner listened to much of the evidence to the accident, in the service car park of Winch and Blatch on July 20 last year, with his head in his hands.

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The inquest heard how Mr Hazell failed to either see the driver's hard lights or hear its automatic reversing device while Mr Skinner reversed into the bay which, though clearly marked no access to the public, was a popular short cut from the bus station to the town centre.

He said: "At no point during that journey did I go over 20 or 25 mph. I put the hazard lights on and out the vehicle into reverse.

"I checked both mirrors and began reversing, a manoeuvre I had performed 20-30 times previously. When my off side was adjacent I began a sharp down manoeuvre to bring me level with the bay. It was only when I straightened up I could see Mr Hazell lying in the road."

He told Mr Hazell's sister, who attended the inquest, "I am sorry that this happened but I had no control it."

Mr Hazell was taken to West Suffolk Hospital with multiple fractions to his rib cage and a fractured pelvis.

A pathologist told the inquest at the time of the post mortem Mr Hazell had 40 milligrams of alcohol in his blood, something close to half the legal drink drive limit.

Because of the way alcohol is absorbed it was likely at 3.30pm, the time of the accident, Mr Hazell's blood alcohol would have been double that at the time of his death. 

Alex Thompson from the Health and Safety Executive told the inquest that following the accident Babergh District Council had issued an improvement notice on Winch and Blatch to make further provision, including a barrier, to make the narrow route off limits to pedestrians.

Coroner Peter Dean in recording a verdict of accidental death agreed with driver Clive Skinner that there was a blind spot at the rear of the lorry.

Mr Hazell, a former groom, will be remembered as a well known horseman who helped a string of breeders to success at many agricultural shows. Until a few years ago he helped Roger Clark, one of the country's leading Suffolk Punch farmers at Weylands in Stoke by Nayland, to scoop several prestigious awards.

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