Mechanic cleared of causing Wem father's death in collision

Reporter:

Staff reporter (Whitchurch Herald)

A MECHANIC involved in a road crash which killed a Wem father has been cleared of causing death by careless driving.

Carl Whitfield had been on a test drive in a van when it crashed into Sebastian Ward’s car, shunting it into the path of an oncoming vehicle outside his car sales business on the A49 near Hadnall.

Mr Ward, 32, was killed instantly in the collision.

Following a three-day trial at Shrewsbury Crown Court last week, 41-year-old Whitfield was found not guilty.

Whitfield, of St Peter’s Close, Moreton-on-Lugg, Hereford, had denied causing Mr Ward’s death by careless driving on August 26, 2015. He told the jury the van he was driving developed a fault causing it to gather speed as he was trying slow down.

Whitfield, a mechanic for 25 years, had been repairing the Vauxhall van on the day of the accident.

He had set off on a test drive and saw Mr Ward’s Ford Ka about 50 metres ahead, indicating to turn right into the Seb Ward Car Sales premises. 

As the car stopped, he could see another Vauxhall van coming in the opposite direction and believed he had a safe distance to stop. 

But when he took his foot off the accelerator to slow down the turbo diesel engine revved and the van had gained speed.

“I panicked for a moment and then braked hard and the front wheels locked. 

“I swerved to the left to try to avoid a collision but the front offside of the van hit the rear of the car,” he said.

He said it all happened in “split seconds” and the van’s engine was still revving as it carried on the grass verge until it stalled and stopped and he switched off the engine.

The court heard from expert witnesses about a potential malfunction of the engine called “spontaneous acceleration”, known in the trade as “runaway”, although it was said to be rare.

The prosecution suggested there was no evidence to support the defendant’s claim and alleged Whitfield was guilty of “momentary inattention” and was unable to brake safely.

Mr Ward, a father-of-one, from Chapel Lane, Wem, was returning to his business premises when the accident happened at Acton Bridge on the A49 between Hadnall and Preston Brockhurst.

The driver of the second van, George Woolley, had no chance of avoiding the collision and both he and his wife, a passenger in the van, suffered chest and rib injuries.

See full story in the Whitchurch Herald

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