HGV boss died in collision with one of his own lorries, inquest hears

A HGV boss died when he broke his own strict rule and cycled up the inside of one of his own lorries, an inquest heard. Russell Bowe was unaware of his boss Jeff Atkinson’s presence in front of his HGV and had no reason to suspect that anyone was there as he waited to turn out of J Atkinson and Son Ltd’s base, said assistant coroner Jonathan Leach. When the Strensall to Sheriff Hutton road was clear he had checked his side mirrors and driven forward.

“I heard shouting and screaming,” said Mr Bowe. He stopped and found that he had partially driven over his boss. Mr Atkinson’s son Philip, who is also part of the family business, said in a statement to the inquest: “I don’t hold Russell responsible.”

He said he had viewed the company’s CCTV which had captured the incident. “Personally I would not have expected to see him (his father) where I did,” he said He said his father had drummed it into him and the company’s employees that you should never cycle along the near side of a HGV unless sure the driver had seen you.

The coroner said Mr Atkinson died at the scene from extensive injuries. Tony Yates, another staff member, said he was in a van following Mr Bowe’s lorry and Mr Atkinson’s bicycle up the private road from the base to the public road. He saw Mr Bowe pause at the junction and Mr Atkinson cycle up the lorry’s near side.

“I thought it was dangerous for him to go down there and I wondered why he was going down there,” he said. One of the lorry’s tyres appeared to be under inflated and he thought Mr Atkinson may have been intending to tell the driver about it. North Yorkshire Police investigator Nigel Varney said one of the tyres was less than half the recommended pressure.

Mr Atkinson was wearing an orange hi-visibility jacket which was a similar colour to Mr Bowe’s lorry, so may not have been easy to see in the lorry’s mirrors. Mr Bowe had stopped at the junction and there were no pavements, so he would have had no reason to check his front, said Mr Varney. Mr Leach said it was possible Mr Atkinson had seen the deflated tyre and decided to go round to the driver’s door to tell Mr Bowe about it.

He concluded that Mr Atkinson “made a conscious decision” to do what he did and made a finding that he had died as a result of a road traffic collision. Mr Atkinson, of Strensall, was 76 when he died on August 27 last year. He founded J Atkinson and Son in 1969 and it moved to its current site in 1981.

It specialises in drainage work and has 10 self-employed staff. Mr Atkinson was fit and generally healthy, the inquest heard. His son said Mr Atkinson had been driving since he was 17 and had 55 years experience of driving lorries.

Mr Yates said on the morning of August 27, he and Mr Atkinson had been in the company yard.

Mr Atkinson had decided to have a cup of tea at his home nearby before making some deliveries.

The two men and Mr Bowe had set off up the road.