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Last Updated: Friday, 17 March 2006, 19:16 GMT
Pair jailed for Tebay rail deaths
Mark Connolly and Roy Kennett
Both men had denied all the charges
Two men have been jailed for the manslaughter of four rail workers.

Four men - one from Cumbria and three from Lancashire - died after they were hit by a runaway trailer at Tebay, Cumbria, in February 2004.

Rail boss Mark Connolly, 44, of north Wales, and crane operator Roy Kennett, 29, of Maidstone, Kent, were each found guilty of four counts of manslaughter.

On Friday, Connolly was jailed for nine years and Kennett for two years at Newcastle Crown Court.

The four men who died were Colin Buckley, 49, of Carnforth, Lancashire, Darren Burgess, 30, also of Carnforth, Chris Waters, 53, of Morecambe, Lancashire, and Gary Tindall, 46, of Tebay.

They were killed when a wagon carrying 16 tonnes of steel rail tracks came out of the darkness and hit them as they worked on the West Coast Main Line.

Clockwise from top left: Chris Waters, Colin Buckley, Gary Tindall; Darren Burgess
The rail workers had no warning of the approaching wagon

Connolly, of Coedana, Llanerchymedd, Anglesey, north Wales, was also found guilty of three counts of breaching health and safety laws.

The jury at Newcastle Crown Court convicted Kennett, of Hollingborne, Maidstone, Kent, of a single count of breaching health and safety laws on Thursday.

Both men had denied all the charges.

On Friday, the jury returned majority verdicts of 10-2 to convict Kennett of the manslaughter charges by criminal negligence.

In mitigation, Richard Lissack QC for Connolly said the father-of-two was a "broken man", having lost his home, business and family.

Prosecutor Robert Smith QC said Connolly, the boss of MAC Machinery Services, had deliberately disconnected the hydraulic brakes on two wagons because it was cheaper than repairing the wagons properly.

Even though the jury has delivered a guilty verdict, we have no sense of victory or celebration and our lives have changed forever
Statement by victims' families

Connolly had driven a low-loader truck with a railway crane and two wagons to Scout Green in Cumbria to lift ageing track from the West Coast Main Line on to railway wagons.

On the morning of 15 February 2004 Kennett began using the large crane to lift lengths of steel on to the wagons.

Connolly had deliberately disconnected the brakes on the two wagons because the hydraulic systems were in such a bad way they would not work properly in conjunction with the crane.

He then filled cables connecting the crane - usually filled with hydraulic brake fluid - with ball bearings, giving the impression everything was above board.

Kennett, who was not qualified to operate the crane, had placed wooden 'chocks' under the wheels of the two wagons because he wanted to ensure they did not move as he unloaded the steel rails.

Investigators and trolley
The trailer rolled down the track before hitting the workers

As he began unloading the second wagon, it began to roll down the track after rolling over the 'chocks'.

The noise from an on-site generator meant the track gang had no warning about the trailer's approach.

Supt Alistair Cumming, of British Transport Police, condemned Connolly for his greed and "blatant and premeditated disregard for safety".

The Rail Maritime and Transport Union said the case had shown how easy railway safety could be breached following privatisation.

Members of the victims' families declined to speak outside the court, and Detective Sergeant Steve Martin read a statement on behalf of all the families.

He said: "During the past two years we have had to come to terms with not only our loss but also that this was an accident that could and should never have happened.

"We have been unable to understand how anybody or why anyone would put on to the railway trailers which had had their brakes deliberately disabled.

"Even though the jury has delivered a guilty verdict, we have no sense of victory or celebration and our lives have changed forever.

"We are relieved it is now over."

Hear from a survivor and the father of one of the victims

Family's agonising wait for news
17 Mar 06 |  England

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