Trial opens of lorry driver accused of killing cyclist while on the phone and over the limit
Driver had pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving, but CPS pursuing more serious charges
The trial has opened in London of a cement lorry driver charged with causing the death of a cyclist by dangerous driving and who is alleged to have been over the drink-drive limit and talking on his mobile phone at the time the fatal collision happened.
Catriona Patel, a 39-year-old public relations executive, had been training to ride L’Etape du Tour with her husband Asish when she was killed in June last year after a lorry driven by Dennis Putz, 51, from Monkton Hadley, Hertfordshire, turned left across her path on Kennington Park Road, near Oval Tube Station. The incident was filmed by CCTV cameras belonging to Lambeth Council.
The case hit the headlines earlier this year when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) rejected a guilty plea from Putz to the charge of causing death by careless driving, insisting that he instead be charged for the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving.
The driver had claimed that he had been using his phone in conjunction with a hands-free kit, but the CPS believes that he had his phone to his ear, and also claimed that he had been drinking.
Yesterday, Inner London Crown Court heard that Putz had apparently been unaware that he had run over the cyclist as he drove away from the lights, and only stopped when bystanders pounded on his cab door. One told the police that Putz appeared “flustered” following the accident.
Witnesses said that Mrs Patel’s neck and head had been crushed by the lorry’s rear wheels. She was taken by air ambulance to the Royal London Hospital, where she died as a result of her injuries.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, prosecutor Jonathan Polnay reported that Putz was subject to a breath test 80 minutes after the fatal accident, with a reading of 39mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath, above the legal threshold of 35mg.
“'A forensic scientist has concluded that at the time of the crash, his alcohol breath reading was likely to have been 49mg - 50 per cent over the drink-drive limit,” said Mr Polnay.
The driver has denied having had a drink on the morning of the accident, but has admitted to drinking seven pints of Guinness the day before, the last of those at 9pm.
However, Mr Polnay said that the prosecution did not accept that version of events, saying that it would have resulted in a reading of zero at the time the breath test was conducted.
“He either had a great deal more to drink that night or he had something to drink that morning,” he added.
“Whilst this was an accident, we say this was an accident waiting to happen and an accident caused almost entirely by Mr Putz' dangerous driving,” insisted Mr Polnay.
“We say he must have known that he should not be behind the wheel of a tipper truck,” he added.
The prosecution also alleges that Putz did not check mirrors specially fitted to his cab that would have enabled him to check for pedestrians and cyclists close to the vehicle at ground level, despite his tacograph showing that he had been stationary for 29 seconds.
“ 'Tests were carried out by police standing where Ms Patel was and there's no doubt that Ms Patel clearly would have been visible in the truck's mirrors,” said Mr Polnay.
“If Mr Putz had looked once in the 29 seconds they were both stationary he would have seen Ms Patel.”
“A competent driver would make a particular effort to check their mirrors for cyclists, especially when turning left,” he concluded.
The case continues.