A TRUCKER who destroyed a 200-year-old stone cottage when he lost control of his timber lorry escaped with a fine and points on his licence when he appeared in court.
Bryony Francis and her partner John Clark had a lucky escape when the lorry careered into their Llangua home near Grosmont in May 2021, shedding 26 tons of giant tree trunks that wrecked the front of the house.
Christopher Wiggins, 42, from Lady Margaret Terrace, Splott, Cardiff, was cleared of dangerous driving by a jury at Cardiff Crown Court, but admitted careless driving and was ordered to pay £1,390 in fines and costs with eight points added to his licence.
Recorder David Warner told him: “You drove your lorry laden with 26 tons or thereabouts of tree logs in such a way that your vehicle rolled over and caused very extensive damage.
“You drove it in a way which was careless in that you entered that corner at a speed which was, even by your own admission in an interview, probably too high for that vehicle with that load on that bend.
“I accept that this was more of an error of judgement rather than a deliberate course of action or reckless behaviour.”
Bryony was in the kitchen making lunch at the back of the cottage when she heard a “massive, massive bang” and the house shook.
Luckily she was unscathed, while partner John thankfully hadn’t arrived home yet to work in the ‘snug’ office which was completely wiped out when some 40 tree trunks careered into the side of the house
Bryony, who bought the cottage beside the A465 Abergavenny-Hereford road 17 years ago, told the Chronicle after the accident: “I’m still shocked really… but the key thing is we are fit and healthy and nobody died. It could have been much, much worse.
“A lot of people could have died and we’re thanking our lucky stars.
“Just five minutes earlier I was stood on the drive with friends and the postman stopped as well and we’d have all been hit.
“And John was doing an outdoor instructor assessment instead of in the snug where he works.
“He would have been killed by a giant piece of timber, while thankfully I was at the back of the house in the kitchen with our dog getting lunch.
“It was just luck that neither of us was in the front of the house. It could have happened at any time of the day, but luckily we escaped,” added the 53-year-old.
“The first thing I knew was this massive, massive bang. I felt it and heard it, the whole house shuddered.
“The doors slammed, all the coats fell to the floor off their pegs and I felt this rush of air, dust and grime hitting my face.
“We’ve had many road accidents on this stretch before, our fence and wall has been hit, motor cyclists have come flying off, it’s an accident blackspot.
“But I’ve never experienced anything like this. It was such a loud bang, I thought ‘oh my God, what’s happened!?’ And at first I thought the ceiling had fallen in.”
Bryony then went to the front of house but when she tried to open the door to the snug room it wouldn’t budge because something was blocking it.
Carefully making her way upstairs, she turned into the bedroom to the shocking sight of most of it missing, with the just the floor still intact.
“There were no walls and I was looking out onto a road full of giant tree trunks, it was just a bomb-site,” she recalled.
“But we’ve had so many accidents on the road and I’ve had first aid training, and that just kicked in at that moment and I thought ‘it’s got to be a lorry and I’d better get outside and see what I can do’.
Bryony found a giant trunk blocking her way at the back and their van written off on the drive, and had to climb “very carefully” over a pile of giant trunks strewn beside the house.
“A couple in a car asked if I was OK, and I said call 999 and we went to see if we could help the lorry driver who was in a state of shock with a cut hand,” she added.
She had previously campaigned for action to make the 60mph road safer.
“It’s an accident blackspot where the road suddenly narrows after a bend. It’s bad enough people driving at 60mph, which is the limit, but people drive even fastert.”