THE driver of a council bin wagon which collided with a 66-year-old-woman with fatal consequences has been cleared of driving without due care.
Jean Eastwood, of Eachill Gardens, Rishton, died from multiple injuries in May last year after she was hit by a reversing bin wagon.
Kevin Michael Slattery, 52, of Whalley Road, Clayton-le-Moors, pleaded not guilty to driving without due care. District Judge Peter Ward ruled in his favour and the case was dismissed.
But Mrs Eastwood’s son Peter said the outcome of the trial only added to the hurt he and his family are feeling.
He said: "I’m suffering, my sister is suffering and our children are suffering. They miss their gran. She was the most caring person. She never judged people by what they had or didn’t have or what they had done.
"It hurts every day not having her here but it hurts more when I see that man still driving round in his bin wagon," said Mr Eastwood, 36, of Butts Mount, Great Harwood.
"I will never understand why his second man was sat in the cab and not out guiding him into the back alley."
The court heard that at around 12.45pm on May 14 2007 Slattery, who had worked for Hyndburn Borough Council for 18 years, had driven the council refuse wagon along Harwood Road from the direction of Great Harwood. He was en-route to collect trade refuse from the rear of the Auberge restaurant and needed to reverse down Norden Court, an alleyway between the Ribble Valley Bentley garage and a block of sheltered housing.
Slattery, who had held a HGV licence for 22 years, pulled up outside the Bentley garage and waited until the road was clear before pulling across the carriageway to set himself up to reverse into the alley.
The court heard the bin lorry was equipped with wing mirrors on both sides as well as a centrally located rear camera which sent pictures to a console in the cab.
Slattery said he used all three as he reversed into the alley and was not aware of anything behind him until he heard a noise and looking in his driver’s side mirror saw something black on the floor under the rear wheels.
It turned out to be Mrs Eastwood. Staff from the Bentley garage gave her mouth to mouth and compression but she never regained consciousness.
Motorist Robert Lloyd was travelling in the opposite direction and stopped while Slattery reversed. He said his window was open and he could clearly hear the reversing siren and see the flashing lights on the rear of the lorry.
"I would say the driver was very careful and did nothing to cause me any concern," said Mr Lloyd.
Mrs Eastwood’s daughter, Dianne Burridge, said in a statement that her "wonderful" mother looked after her three-year-old-son Lucas Monday to Friday. On the day of her death she would have taken him to nursery at Norden High School. She said her mum would have walked back along Harwood Road and, because she had her rent book and a £20 note in her purse, Mrs Burridge was certain that her mum was on her way to the Post Office to pay her rent.
Announcing his decision District Judge Ward said it was up to the prosecution to prove that Slattery had not driven to the standard of a reasonable and prudent driver.
He said he had considered whether the second man on board should have got out and guided the driver into the alley but he said this wasn’t the normal procedure.
"The Health and Safety Executive recognises that there is a problem reversing commercial and refuse vehicles," said Mr Ward.
"Many companies these days use reversing assistants. I can’t say the second man should have got out of the cab but things might have been different if he had."