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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2006, 16:36 GMT
Bridge warning call after death
Recovery operation at Foyle Brige following fatal accident in high winds
The lorry plunged over the Foyle Bridge in high winds
A lorry driver was blown off a Londonderry bridge in high winds which would have shut all comparable bridges in the UK, an inquest has heard.

Peter McGuinness, 37, from Aghagallon, County Antrim died after his lorry was blown off the side of Foyle Bridge last January and fell 100ft onto mudflats.

A consultant said bridges in Scotland and England would have been closed to high-sided vehicles in such conditions.

The dead man's family called for a change in the bridge's warning system.

The inquest in Derry heard that winds were gusting to more than 70mph at the time of the accident on 11 January 2005.

However, the court heard that because the average wind speed had not been recorded topping 50mph, the Roads Service did not shut the bridge.

A report into the accident by Hyder Consultants, commissioned by the Roads Service, said they had not been at fault in keeping the bridge open and had been monitoring the wind speeds after a gale warning issued by the Met Office.

Foyle Bridge, Londonderry
A new safety system is to be introduced on Foyle Bridge

However civil engineer Phillip Tindall, from Hyder, revealed there was a 20-minute delay in recording wind speeds from the bridge and the average wind had been close to 50mph some time before the accident.

Under questioning from a barrister representing the dead man's family, he agreed Mr McGuinness would have not been allowed to cross similar bridges elsewhere in the UK under the same weather conditions.

He said it was the only bridge in the UK that did not have some sort of restriction short of closure.

The Humber Bridge, the Forth Road Bridge and the Severn Old Bridge would all have been closed to high-sided vehicles if weather conditions had been such as those around the Foyle Bridge.

"It is the only bridge in the UK that doesn't implement lesser restrictions than closure in adverse weather," said the barrister.

Mr Tindall agreed but he would not be drawn when asked by the lawyer if he agreed there was an "inadequate system" for checking the weather at the Foyle Bridge.

"You can't just take wind speeds in isolation because conditions differ from one bridge to another," said Mr Tindall.

Mr McGuinness's family said they were disappointed that the safety measures in place did not prevent the accident.

The family's solicitor, Diarmuid McKeown, said: "They are somewhat disappointed that this is the only bridge in the UK that would have allowed Peter to cross in a high-sided vehicle on that particular day."

He said the family wanted the warning system on the bridge changed to take account of the wind gust and not just the overall wind speed.

In September, it was revealed that a new safety system was to be introduced on the Foyle Bridge.

It followed the independent report into the death of Mr McGuinness which recommended a review of operating procedures in strong winds.

The report found that the bridge parapets were in good condition, but it did identify certain areas where the Roads Service could improve the management of the bridge during adverse weather conditions.

Keiron Tourish reports on the inquest

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