A49 death crash trial: Driver tells court the van he was test driving had a fault

Shrewsbury | News | Published:

A mechanic involved in a fatal crash has told a jury the van he was driving developed a fault causing it to gather speed as he was trying to slow down.

Carl Whitfield, 41, had been on a test drive with the Vauxhall Movano van when it crashed into a car shunting it into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

Car driver, 32-year-old Sebastian Ward, was killed instantly in the collision outside his car sales business on the A49 north of Shrewsbury.

Whitfield, of St Peter's Close, Moreton-on-Lugg, Hereford, denies causing Mr Ward's death by careless driving on August 26, 2015.

Giving evidence at Shrewsbury Crown Court yesterday Whitfield said he had been a mechanic for 25 years and had been repairing the van on the day of the accident.

He had set off on a test drive and saw Mr Ward's Ford Ka about 50 metres ahead and had seen the car indicate to turn right into the Seb Ward Car Sales premises.

Whitfield said the car stopped and he could see another van coming in the opposite direction and believed he had a safe distance to stop.

He said he took his foot off the accelerator to slow down, but did not expect to have to brake before the car was able to make its turn.

However, he said that as he took his foot of the accelerator, the turbo diesel engine revved and the van gained speed.


"I panicked for a moment and then braked hard and the front wheels locked. I swerved to the left to try and avoid a collision but the front offside of the van hit the rear of the car," he said. He said it all happened in "split seconds" and the van's engine was still revving as it carried on the grass verge until it stalled and stopped and he switched off the engine.

Whitfield said he was aware of a condition called 'spontaneous acceleration' – known in the trade as 'run away' – but had not encountered it before and denied he was lying about the circumstances of the accident.

The prosecution say no evidence was found to support the defendant's claim and allege that Whitfield was guilty of "momentary inattention".

The trial continues.

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