A lorry driver has pleaded guilty to causing the death by dangerous driving of a female cyclist who was killed instantly in August last year when a 9-tonne refrigeration unit slid off his lorry’s trailer and landed on her.
Mother of two, and grandmother of four, Susan Russell, had been riding her bike to work at a care home in Victoria Dock, Hull, when she was killed at around 7.30am on 20 August 2010.
The fatal incident took place on the Garrison Road roundabout, which lorry driver Mark Smith, aged 47, was said to have been negotiating at 20mph, reports the Hull Daily Mail.
Smith, operator of a haulage firm based in Bradford, had set off that morning from his depot, heading for Saltend with the load.
However, the court heard that he had not secured it properly, with a police report stating that dozens of straps should have been used to keep the refrigeration unit in place, instead of just two that were actually used.
According to the Hull Daily Mail, “several motorists” heading into the city witnessed the load hanging off the lorry’s trailer as it went through Melton, some way from the site where the victim was killed. It was not reported whether any of those motorists contacted the police.
Sentencing is due to take place next month, and the victim’s sister says she hopes the driver “rots in jail.”
The victim’s sister, Patricia Kipling, aged 64, told the Hull Daily Mail: "He took my sister from me and I will never recover from that. I will never get her back. I hope he rots in jail.
"I live with the thought of her being crushed to death every day and I hope Mark Smith gets a long jail sentence, so he can sit and think about what he has done.
"He took my sister from me, either through laziness or stupidity."
Smith’s lawyers have argued that the driver was not aware that the load was unsafe, a claim contested by the Crown Prosecution Service, and one that will have an effect on the length of sentence ultimately imposed on him.
The case has been adjourned until next month, and if the defence team and CPS are unable to agree upon the facts before then, they will be determined by a legal process known as a Newton hearing, under which the judge will examine the evidence and decide what actually happened.
Mrs Kipling added: "Every day something reminds me of my loss. The last image I have in my head is of her lying on a slab at the morgue, when I had to identify her.
"Every day I go through the emotions of losing my sister. What has he had to go through? Nothing from what I have seen."
With police closing the road for several hours to conduct their investigation, Mrs Kipling was caught in the traffic jam that ensued, although she had no inkling of what had caused it.
"We had been to Tesco the morning Sue died and we actually got caught in all the traffic afterwards. It had a knock-on effect across the city,” she revealed.
"We were cursing the delays yet at the time had no idea what had happened. It wasn't until later in the afternoon the police got in touch."
In court, Smith, who has been released on bail pending the sentencing hearing, told the victim’s family: "I'm sorry, I just want the family to know I am sorry. I am really sorry for the family."
He repeated that afterwards outside the court, telling the Hull Daily Mail: "I am sorry. I am heartbroken by what happened. Every day I think about what happened. I want the family to know I am sorry."
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.