Lorry driver charged with causing deaths of two soldiers admits he misjudged danger from blinding smoke (From The Northern Echo)
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Goole trucker charged with causing deaths of two Catterick Garrison soldiers on A66 near Brough admits he misjudged blinding smoke
7:40am Friday 6th September 2013 in News
A TRUCKER accused of killing two soldiers in a road smash told a court yesterday (Thursday, September 5) that he “misjudged” the danger posed by a cloud of thick smoke obscuring the road moments before the accident.
Colin Pattison is said to have crashed at 30mph into the back of an Army Land-Rover which had hit the trailer of an articulated lorry which had broken down following “catastrophic engine failure”.
The prosecution says the 52-year-old should have slowed to a crawl, as other drivers did, when faced by blinding smoke pouring from the first wagon.
Instead, they say, he continued at normal speed up a hill on the eastbound A66 at North Stainmore, near Brough, Cumbria, killing both soldiers as his lorry crushed their Land-Rover against the stricken lorry in front.
Private Jim Austin, 24, of 400 Troop Royal Logistics Corps, and Lance Sergeant David Gartland, 40, of the Grenadier Guards were both based at the Infantry Training Centre at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire.
Pattison, of Newclose Lane, Goole, North Humberside, denies causing their deaths by dangerous driving on the afternoon of September 1, 2011.
He told Carlisle Crown Court how he first saw the smoke from about 500 yards away and thought it was the result of stubble burning in roadside fields.
He said he approached it “confidently but very cautiously” but did not apply his brakes.
“I have been through field smoke many times and I anticipated going into it, immediately out of it and back in the sunshine,” he said.
He added that once inside the smoke he realised it was thicker than anything he had previously experienced.
“I admit I made an error of judgement. I think I misjudged the density of the smoke," he said.
“You just assumed and hoped this was a small cloud?” asked prosecutor l Tim Evans.
“I did not hope, no,” he replied. “I was going on past experience.”
Pathologist Dr Alison Armour earlier told the jury that she was satisfied the soldiers survived the first impact, but died when Mr Pattison’s lorry crashed into them moments later.
The jury have been told that they must decide whether Pte Austin, from Catterick, and Sgt Gartland, of Greater Manchester - returning from the Warcop Training Area near Appleby, Cumbria – died from the first or second crash and that they are entitled to consider an alternative charge of causing death by careless driving.
Mr Evans said that if the soldiers were already dead when Mr Pattison’s lorry hit their Land-Rover “it would follow that it could not have been any dangerous driving by the defendant that caused their deaths.”
The jury has heard that when interviewed by the police shortly after the crash Pattison said driving into the smoke was “like someone put a bag over my head".
The trial continues.