Death on A12 caused by lorry's high centre of gravity
Death of Gurdip Johal who crashed onto A12 near Witham caused by lorry’s high centre of gravity
The driver of a 20-tonne lorry that careered off a bridge and burst into a fireball did not know he was driving a load with an unusually high centre of gravity, an inquest has heard.
Gurdip Johal, 30, of Witham, was test driving an articulated HGV when he overturned onto its near side and crashed onto the A12 southbound carriageway on February 2.
Mr Johal, a technician who worked for Harris Truck and Van, in Witham, was pronounced dead at the scene.
A post mortem examination carried out by forensic pathologist Thushara Rodrigo at Broomfield Hospital gave the cause of death as haemorrhage from multiple injuries caused by the road traffic collision.
Gurdip Johal died at the scene
Today (July 17), Essex Coroner’s Court heard how he had been negotiating a right-hand bend when the lorry skidded on to its left side, flattened a crash barrier and smashed off Colemans Bridge on to the road below.
Collision investigator PC David Howard said tyre marks and debris showed Mr Johal had tried to get control of his vehicle but its 20-tonne trailers toppled to its left side and slid down the embankment.
He explained how huge damage to the vehicle’s cab saw Mr Johal ejected from his seat after it was dragged by the trailer’s momentum and left partially suspended in the air over the motorway.
The investigator told the court how the crash may have been caused by the “undoubtedly” high centre of gravity caused by a system of acid-fueled batteries called an ‘uninterrupted power supply’ being stacked up to the top of the trailer.
The trailer was likely to have been stacked almost to the top with battery cells and it was not common practice for him to know what he was driving as the vehicles usually arrive empty.
No mechanical defects with the lorry were found but after inspecting another lorry container which was delivered to Harris Truck and Van loaded in the same way.
He said: “I was surprised at the height of battery systems, the way they were stored, they reached the full height of the container.
“[Mr Johal] travelling at the same speed but with a more conventional centre of gravity would have probably negotiate the bend without incident.
“The centre of gravity was undoubtedly high and in a goods vehicle it must be a consideration.”
The accident was therefore caused as a result of the high centre of gravity, the fact the vehicle was moving, the road camber and the bend in the road.
PC Howard also revealed the speed of the lorry was not known because of a lack of witness evidence and it was not recorded on a tachograph.
The speed had not been recorded as the vehicle was on a pre-MOT inspection run by the goods vehicles maintenance company, with the road’s speed limit of 50mph reducing to 30mph on the other side of the bridge.
The inquest heard a “very very slight change” in tightening of the right-hand bend from three to 1.5 degrees in camber may have also been contributing factors to the crash.
Clinton Fit, services manager for the company said Mr Johal had driven the same route daily, would not have known what was inside the container of his lorry which was delivered by a local construction company DDGC Limited.
After Senior Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray asked him: “What would a driver of a vehicle like this know about the load with the container?”, he said: “Not necessarily, with our drivers because they are technicians, we don’t always necessarily know what the load is.
“We were told the vehicle was carrying a mobile generator, it was padlocked so we would have no necessary reason to check the vehicle.”
He added there were no reports of problems with Mr Johal’s driving or the lorry, which he believed was bought recently, and that the trailer was delivered to the company on December 20.
More than a dozen members of Mr Johal’s family and colleagues were in attendance to hear the verdict.
Mrs Beasley-Murray said: “It was a tragic accident and the court would again like to express sympathy to you, Mrs Johal and all the other family members who have been here at this inquest.
“Mr Johal was clearly a much loved family member and the court hopes that you will all be able to treasure the happy memories that you have of him.”
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Johal’s wife, Mandy Gurdip, 21, in a statement read by her barrister David Story, said: “Losing Gurdip has been extremely difficult; it was a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from and he is hugely missed.
“He was such a caring and loving husband and special man.
“I ask to be given privacy during this time to grieve and remember Gurdip.”