'Unsecured' generator caused fatal Etchingham crash, court hears

Stephen Dudley, 43, denies charges of causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving. Photo by Eddie Mitchell.

A workman had failed to strap down a generator before it fell from his truck and fatally struck an off-duty army officer in Etchingham, a court heard this week.

In August 2016, 40-year-old warrant officer Emma Beeney and her husband Rob, 44, had been walking their dog in Etchingham, when they were hit by a 66-kg generator and pneumatic hammer, which fell from a truck as it crossed over a nearby level crossing. Mrs Beeney was killed by the impact while her husband suffered a skull fracture.

The truck’s driver, 43-year-old builder Stephen Dudley from Ashford in Kent, stands accused of causing both death and serious injury by dangerous driving for failing to secure the load. Dudley denies both charges.

At a trial a Lewes Crown Court this week, a jury heard evidence from Sussex Police forensic collision officer PC Steve Ashby. He said: “My conclusion is that the load was not strapped in as it should have been. It had shifted and become more unstable and as a result it became inevitable that the load would become loose on the uneven road surface.”

As part of PC Ashby’s evidence Alan Gardner, prosecuting, showed the court CCTV footage of the truck as it filled up at a petrol station prior to the crash. The footage, Mr Gardner argued, showed the truck’s load – including the generator – had not been strapped down.

Mr Gardner told the court it was the responsibilty of the driver to safely secure loads under Highway Code rules.

Earlier in the hearing, the court heard from Danny Turner of Applewood Construction, the Kent-based firm which Dudley had been working for as a sub-contractor for around two to three weeks before the fatal collision.

Mr Turner, who was Dudley’s manager on the day of the collision, told the court how Dudley had been responsible for loading the truck that morning and that he had not been supervised as he did so.

Mr Turner said the firm did not give Dudley any training on how to strap down loads to the truckbed but that he had been judged as ‘competent’ and had been observed securing a load of bricks to the truck on a previous occasion.

Since the collision, Mr Turner said, Applewood has introduced checks to ensure its drivers know how to strap down heavy loads.

The trial continues.

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