A FOUR year-old girl walking with her grandmother and three men in a car were killed when an out-of-control tipper truck careered down a hill near a primary school.
The Scania truck carrying sand and gravel hit the pedestrians before overturning onto a Volvo at the bottom Lansdown Lane in Bath just after 4pm yesterday, leaving a scene described by one witness as “absolute carnage”.
The four-year-old was Mitzi Rosanna Steady, Avon and Somerset Police said. Her grandmother remains in a critical condition in hospital.
The three men who died were from South Wales and aged 59, 52 and 34. Two other people have minor injuries, including the truck driver.
Chief Inspector Norman Pascal said: “This is a tragic incident in which three men and a young girl have lost their lives and we’re carrying out a full and meticulous investigation to find out what happened.
“The tipper truck has been recovered and will undergo a full examination and our investigators will be carrying out further inquiries at the scene today.
“We have specially-trained family liaison officers supporting the victims’ families to make sure they have all the help they need and are being kept updated on the progress of our investigation.
“We’d like to speak to anyone who was in the Lansdown Lane area of Bath around the time of the incident to come forward with any information, if they haven’t already spoken to one of our officers.”
A man who desperately tried to help those killed has described the aftermath.
Brian Fisher, 53, was working nearby with a colleague when he heard the 32-tonne lorry’s windows blow out.
He said: “It was carnage, absolute carnage.”
Mr Fisher’s colleague called 999 and relayed details of the casualties to the emergency operator.
Mr Fisher said: “He went further up the road and that’s where he saw the little girl. We went to the silver car in which the three people died. We didn’t see it at first, it was at the other side of the lorry. We rushed there and tried to do what we could, to lift bits of the car off and get them out, but you wouldn’t recognise it as a car.
“I couldn’t even tell you what make it was - the damage was that bad.
“There was a nurse who tried to clear a guy’s airway but it didn’t work. I don’t know where they found the third person because we only found two.
“I spoke to a police officer who said that in 25 years he had never seen anything like this.
The devastation was clear today, with garden walls and road signs crushed on the floor.
A sign reading “school” lay in a pile of metal rubble next to bricks, bollards and foliage which had been ripped from a nearby garden.
The lorry’s load was spilled onto the road, leaving sand across the pavement of Lansdown Lane in Upper Weston.
Early witness reports given to police suggest that the driver of the tipper lorry, who was injured in the incident, had been trying to avert an accident.
The area was busy with parents collecting children from school.
“There are obviously a number of witnesses who would have seen aspects of the collision, and we do know the tipper finally came to a corner, has lost control and come over and lost aggregate across the floor,” Chief Superintendent Caroline Peters said.
Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster described the incident as “obviously devastating, tragic and awful”.
“The community is in shock, both for the families of those killed and also those who have been affected,” he said.
“We are still waiting to get more details as to what the cause was. It is obviously devastating, tragic and awful, but until we know more we cannot speculate.”
The tragedy comes less than two months after a bin lorry veered out of control in Glasgow city centre, killing six, and is likely to lead to renewed scrutiny of regulations on the use of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) in built-up areas.
But Edmund King, the president of the AA, said banning HGVs from residential roads would be difficult.
“Most of our goods in our shops are actually delivered by heavy goods vehicles or relatively large vehicles,” he said.
“Construction work goes on in our towns and villages and requires larger vehicles, so it is actually quite difficult to say large vehicles should be banned because some of them may be there for good reason.”
The crash in Bath is reminiscent of a horrific accident in 1993 in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, when six people died after a tipper truck carrying 20 tonnes of gravel lost control on a steep hill, colliding with a van and then a shop.
The driver of the truck and the van were both killed, as were four pedestrians including a two-year-old girl. The truck was found to have eight faulty brakes, but the only successful charge against the company was a failure to maintain the brakes, resulting in a £5,000 fine.
The bereaved families fought successfully to overturn a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to bring a charge of manslaughter against the company, but by the time the firm was eventually charged the evidence was insufficient to gain a conviction.
The national road safety charity Brake was founded in the UK in 1995 in the aftermath of another crash which involved a freight lorry which lost a wheel as it was not roadworthy.
The 59-year-old is from Cwmbran, and the 52-year-old and 34-year-old are from Swansea, police said.
Shocked residents attended a moving prayer service at All Saints Church in Weston, close to the crash site.
Children, parents, grandparents and other members of the local community filled the church for the hour-long service.
Rector Patrick Whitworth led prayers and lit candles for the three men and the little girl killed in the tragedy.
Readings included Psalm 46, Romans Chapter 12, while hymns such as O Love That Will Not Let Me Go were sung.
Mr Whitworth told the congregation: “Anything I say will be inadequate given what the families, friends, those who died, those who are in hospital, experienced and suffered.
“We can never answer adequately the question why. There is an investigation going on into the vehicle in the terrible accident, the lorry.
“We will hear whether there was some kind of mechanical failure.
“Why, on what was really one of the most beautiful days of the year, with fresh sunshine that goes with February, that out of nowhere such a terrible disaster should happen.
“I cannot answer the question why and I don’t think anything else can either.”
The vicar described the community as “close knit” and said police had expressed thanks to those who helped at the scene yesterday.
Teachers at Weston All Saints Primary School, are attending a special meeting today to plan for the re-opening of the school this week.
Members of the congregation lit candles for the dead and wrote messages in coloured pen on a cloth in the church.