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Trucker to fight death crash verdict

PUBLISHED: 10:45 29 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:56 03 March 2010

A TRUCKER who claimed that his vehicle was "lit up like a Christmas tree" has been found guilty of careless driving after being involved in a crash near Ipswich which resulted in the death of two Suffolk pensioners.

A TRUCKER who claimed that his vehicle was "lit up like a Christmas tree" has been found guilty of careless driving after being involved in a crash near Ipswich which resulted in the death of two Suffolk pensioners.

But Keith Wright said today that he would appeal against the verdict which resulted in him being given a £1,000 fine.

"Justice has not been done and I will fight to clear my name," he said defiantly.

Pamela and Edward Bishopp, who lived in Melton, lost their lives when their Honda Accord smashed in to the back of Wright's 40-tonne articulated lorry on the A12 near Brightwell, on December 19, last year.

Their death sparked the beginning of the Evening Star's Close the Gap campaign which is aimed at shutting the opening on the dual carriageway close to the Seven Sisters junction of the A12 and A14 near Levington. This was the very gap which may have been responsible for the deaths of the Bishopps.

The trial at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court entered its second day yesterday and saw Mr Wright, of Church Lane, Playford, near Ipswich, giving evidence.

He told the court how he had given the vehicle a visual inspection and cleaned the windows before he left on his journey from Brightwell to a sugar beet factory in Norwich.

The court heard how Wright said his truck was "lit up like a Christmas tree" the morning the accident happened. This was disputed by the prosecution who claimed his lights were covered in mud obscuring their visibility.

The court heard how Wright had seen two vehicles coming from the right and one from the left, as he was about to pull out onto the A12 from a side road leading off the dual carriageway.

He waited for these to pass and saw the Bishopps in the distance at the roundabout to his left. Instead of waiting for them to pass he carried out his right turn across the two lanes of the road believing he had enough time to do so.

The prosecution questioned Wright about the state of his lights.

"You travelled a short distance then had the collision. After the collision your lights were in the state we saw in the photographs", stated Ian Francis, for the prosecution.

He went on to say to Wright: "It seems strange your lights were so covered with dirt so close to your time of start".

Expert witness Len Wayman, a road traffic accident investigator, had prepared a report on the accident. The court heard how he believed the Bishopps' had plenty of time to overtake the truck when they approached the vehicle.

He estimated their speed as between 40 and 70 miles per hour. He also calculated that the time taken to complete the manoeuvre turning right on the A12 by Wright was 22.68 seconds. He said this left plenty of time for Mr Bishopp to manoeuvre and over take.

He also told the court he believed that the lights from Wright's truck would have been visible to them when they were at the Foxhall Road roundabout, approximately 1,000 metres from the junction where the accident happened.

This was disputed by the prosecution who claimed the report was unscientific because it used Wright as the driver in the tests and because it was not carried out under the same conditions as the accident back in December.

"I used Wright because he is the only person who could accurately carry out the procedure as it was done at the time of the accident," said Mr Wayman.

The court also heard how police at the scene had not seen Mr Bishopp wearing glasses, or found any glasses after the accident, despite Mr Bishopp having to wear them for driving.

Wright, who has been driving HGVs since he was 21, was given the fine as well as being ordered to pay £400 costs. He also had his driving licence endorsed with nine penalty points.

Chairwoman of the bench Pamela Bletchley in sentencing said: "We are limited in our sentencing powers but whatever we do cannot adequately reflect the loss of the two lives."

Speaking after the case Wright said he was still driving and had not lost his job as a result of the accident.

He said that today he would be consulting with his legal advisors in a bid to make an appeal.

"I do not think that the magistrates took everything into consideration before coming to their decision.

"I know that I have been harshly dealt with and all I am prepared to say is "roll on the appeal". I am 100 per cent not guilty," added Wright.

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