Young woman killedwhen “disconnected”trailer hit her car on A6

Date: Friday 19th January 2018

A PENRITH young woman died in a tragic collision after a trailer being towed by a van became “disconnected” on the A6 and hit her car, a preliminary inquest hearing has been told.

Rebecca Alice Quail, aged 25, of Eamont Mews, died in the collision which happened near Shap Quarry shortly before 8-30am on 15th March last year as she was on her way to work.

Miss Quail, known as Becca, was a senior teaching assistant at a school in Kendal for children with special needs and was driving towards the town in her Citroen. Heading towards Shap was a van, driven by Stewart Hamilton, which was towing a trailer containing a mini-digger. He was being followed by a colleague, Daniel Bannon. Both men were employed by T&K Gallagher, a sub-contractor working for United Utilities.

Members of Miss Quail’s family attended Friday’s hearing at County Hall, Kendal, including her father, Brian, and brother Damian, both from Penrith, and her sister, Kerrie Addison. Miss Quail’s mother, Frances, now lives in Yorkshire.

Also in attendance were Miss Quail’s long-term partner, Simon Christopher Thicke; Sergeant Lee Hill, a collision investigator with Cumbria police; and legal representatives for the van driver and his colleague. Barristers represented T&K Gallagher Ltd. and Indespension Trailers Ltd. were also at the hearing.

Coroner Robert Chapman said the full inquest was expected later this year. He said: “Clearly a lot of the inquest is going to centre on the technical aspects of the separation of the trailer from the van.”

In order to get to the bottom of what had happened, the inquest will need to examine how the trailer was attached to the van on the morning of the tragedy, as well as the loading of the mini-digger and any weight issues relating to the trailer or the van.

In addition, the coroner said reports of a “puncture” would also need to be looked at, as well as the “maintenance and inspection regime” of the vehicle and trailer, and any training records for Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Bannon.

Mr. Chapman told the hearing it will be necessary to see what, if any, defects were disclosed about the trailer or the van on the day of the collision, or in the days prior to the tragedy.

It emerged at the hearing that Mr. Bannon had told investigators that he was completely satisfied that the trailer was properly attached.

Miss Quail’s brother, Damian, claimed at the hearing: “There’s evidence on the statements that the hitching of the trailer wasn’t done correctly and wasn’t checked correctly.” Mr. Chapman assurred him those would be matters discussed at the eventual inquest.

Miss Quail’s father, Brian, said he drove an articulated lorry. “When you have got soft tyres, it can transfer more weight on to the front end, so what can be half-a-tonne over can end up three-quarters of a tonne over if you’ve got soft tyres. They’re not taking the burden,” he said.

Asked if he had any further issues to raise, Mr. Quail told the coroner: “The speed issue. I know in the eyes of the law the driver wasn’t actually breaking the law, but to come round there at 48mph with a mini-digger on the back seems a bit crazy, to be honest.”

Solicitors representing Mr. Thicke said in an e-mail to the coroner that one of the issues to be examined should be whether it was possible for a properly-secured trailer to separate from a van so that the accuracy of Mr. Bannon’s statement could be independently verified.

In a statement to the hearing, read out by the coroner, they said: “There are a number of possible causative factors for the inquest to consider, including the method of coupling and whether it was locked properly in position. Was there any contamination or incorrect seating of the locking mechanism, etc?

“Our client, and no doubt the rest of the deceased’s family, will be anxious to identify how the trailer became detached, and ensure that recommendations are put in place to avoid any possible reoccurrence of such a tragedy.”

Sarah Valentine, a solicitor for Indespension Trailers Ltd., told the coroner that, following the police investigation, “no defects” or safety issues were found with the “hitch” connecting trailer to van.

The inquest was adjourned to a date yet to be fixed.