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Driver fined for crash that left his partner in a wheelchair.

Byline: Elwyn Roberts

A LORRY driver was fined yesterday following an accident that left his partner wheelchairbound for life.

Sheila Francis, 45, of Benllech, Anglesey, was a passenger in a Renault transporter driven by Mark Holdsworth when it overturned on an embankment alongside the A55.

The lorry ended up on its side, leaving Ms Francis trapped under the cab.

Flintshire magistrates heard how the air brake pipe fractured, locking the wheels.

The vehicle, which had a Landrover Discovery on the back, overturned as the couple travelled to France.

A short time earlier her partner Holdsworth - who runs the Holdsworth Four by Four company on Anglesey - had carried out a temporary repair to the lorry's brake pipe with a fellow mechanic after a fault developed on Rhuallt Hill.

The court in Mold was told Holdsworth intended that the temporary repair would enable them to remove the lorry from a dangerous spot on the hill to a nearby lay-by.

But the lay-by was closed because of contractors' road working machinery.

A second lay-by was full, and it was as Holdsworth was driving to a nearby McDonald's Restaurant car park at the Caerwys turn-off that tragedy struck.

Holdsworth, 42, of Aralan, Llangefni Road, Benllech, changed his plea and admitted driving the lorry in a dangerous condition.

In his absence, he was fined pounds 400 with pounds 60 costs and he was also banned from driving for a year.

Magistrates said it was a serious offence of its type.

It was a serious misjudgement by someone who should have been in a position to know better.

There was the potential for devastating consequences and tragically they occurred.

But magistrates took into account the consequences of the offences on the defendant himself, the nature of his business, his means and his ultimate guilty plea.

Matthew Corbett-Jones, prosecuting, said just before the Caerwys interchange the lorry's brakes locked and the lorry spun before coming to rest on its side down an embankment.

Ms Francis suffered very serious head and leg injuries and damage to the nervous system which meant she was now in a wheelchair.

The defendant had a punctured lung and shoulder injuries. Police vehicle examiner Gary Roberts found the accident was caused by a fracture in the repair, which was considered unprofessional and which rendered the vehicle in a dangerous condition.

Stuart Sutton, defending, said his client had driven for 25 years, qualified as a class one HGV driver in the forces 20 years ago, and had been in business for 17 years.

He had suffered injuries in the crash and he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder following the accident.

But Mr Sutton said of greater concern was the condition of his partner who was trapped under the lorry's cab and her injuries were so severe she would always be in a wheelchair.

He was now virtually her full-time carer with nursing care and he was also trying to run his business on a reduced basis. The vehicle had been fully serviced, had an MOT and was considered completely roadworthy when the couple set off.

Holdsworth last night said he would be appealing against the year-long driving ban. ``The ban is totally absurd and not warranted.

``Being able to drive is vital in my business and Sheila, because of her injuries, is unable to drive. She depends on me.''
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 10, 2002
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