A HGV driver who ran over a cyclist after swerving into his lane “got away with it” by escaping prosecution, the victim’s brother told an inquest.
Tauqir Butt told Southwark coroner’s court that he did not believe Frank Lunnon’s insistence that he had indicated before veering left into his brother’s lane as he drove round the Vauxhall Cross gyratory on June 2, 2014.
Tafsir Butt, 52, above, a security guard who had been riding home after a night shift at a firm in Cannon Street, was pronounced dead at the scene in Parry Street before 7.30am, after suffering pelvic, chest and massive head injuries.
An off-duty Army doctor, an anaesthetist and a medic from a nearby nightclub attempted life-saving before London Ambulance Service advanced paramedic Pete Dalton and Dr Simon Walsh from London’s Air Ambulance arrived, but Mr Butt had gone into cardiac arrest and could not be resuscitated. He was the sixth of 12 London cyclists to be killed in road collisions in 2014.
CCTV evidence from the lorry did not show whether or not the driver had indicated and there was no eye-witness evidence. Police decided there was insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution.
At the inquest yesterday, Tauqir Butt, who was able to cross-examine Mr Lunnon, told the court: “I’m interested in the indicator. There was CCTV – did he indicate or not? I have lost my brother at the end of the day. He is not going to come back. Really, he [Mr Lunnon] has got away with nothing.”
Outside the court, Mr Butt told the Standard: “He got away with it. He was going straight across into my brother. I don’t think he indicated.”
His sister Shagufta said: “It’s sad that it didn’t get to court.” She said of her brother Tafsir, who “loved his bike”: “He had such zest for life. He was never miserable. That is what is so sad. He had so much love for other people.”
The court heard that Mr Butt, a divorcee living in Battersea, was struck from behind by the extra-large tipper truck, which had been removing spoil from construction sites at Battersea power station and Wandsworth Road and taking it to Rainham.
The collision happened in an unlit and dark tunnel under railway tracks. Mr Lunnon had overtaken Mr Butt 70m earlier as he rode on a partial cycle lane on South Lambeth Road. However the driver said he had not noticed the cyclist, who subsequently moved in front of the lorry as it slowed to 6mph in traffic as they followed the road right into Parry Street.The lorry was estimated by police to have been doing 19mph at the time of the collision.
The police investigation found Mr Butt would have been been in Mr Lunnon’s mirrors for a total of 2.6 seconds but had ridden into a blind spot. Mr Lunnon said he never saw the cyclist in front of him and thought he had hit a pothole. He stopped soon after the collision and saw Mr Butt lying fatally injured by the side of the road.
Mr Lunnon, 62, who has since retired as a lorry driver, broke down as he apologised in court. He insisted he had indicated, saying it was something he did “automatically”.
Mr Lunnon told Mr Butt: “You do it automatically. I know it sounds funny, but I have been driving for 40 years. You know where you are going to go. You automatically indicate.”
At the end of his evidence, he added: “I would like to say on behalf of myself that my deepest sympathies go out to the family. I know exactly what you are going through. I lost one of my brothers.”
Collision investigator, Acting Sergeant Andrew Osborne said it was “quite dark” in the 40m-long tunnel under the bridge. He said there was no cycle lane on that section of the road.
He said there was “clear evidence” that Mr Butt had been hit by the bumper on the front near-side of the lorry and went under the vehicle.
The collision activated a “smart witness” camera system within the lorry to record 30 seconds of footage, before and after the collision.
A/Sgt Osborne said broke the footage down into 10 segments as he analysed the paths of the cyclist and lorry for the court.
He said: “He [Mr Butt] was wearing dark clothing. Though he is there to be seen, the dark clothing doesn’t make much of a contrast against the road.
“At position eight, as they go into the tunnel, it’s starting to get dark. At position nine and 10, the contrast is very poor. He [Mr Butt] is barely visible.
“Overall, Mr Butt may have been visble for no more than 0.8 seconds in the first instance and then again for about 1.8 seconds as they borth turned into Parry Street.
“It appears to me that, prior to negotiating this bend, Mr Butt would very likely have been in a blind spot at that point. He wouldn’t have been able to be seen in the mirrors.
“Mr Butt has pedalled his bike past the lorry on the near-side. A he has positioned his bike in front of the lorry, he has stopped pedalling and may therefore have lost some speed.”
He said the Highway Code advised cyclists to give lorries room: “Don’t ride in the space they need to get around the roundabout.”
Referring to the view from the lorry’s cab, A/Sgt Osborne said: “All you are seeing is, at best, a head and shoulders of Mr Butt.
“On top of that, you have to consider that Mr Butt was wearing a dark jacket and a dark woolly hat.
“Entering into a tunnel where the light changes, Mr Butt’s clothing being dark, he would have become hard to see at some points, if at all. At points nine and 10 he is very hard to distinguish at all.
“If Mr Butt had been wearing lighter clothing on a well-lit bicycle, that may have grabbed Mr Lunnon’s attention.”
The court was told that Mr Butt’s bike was fitted with bike lights but they were not switched on – probably because it was daylight outside the tunnel.
Assistant coroner Philip Barlow told A/Sgt Osborne: “These were technically daylight hours. There would have been no obligation on the cyclist to be using lights.”
The officer replied: “Yeah, technically.”
Mr Barlow recorded a conclusion of accidental death.
The coroner said: “The collision took place in daylight hours. There was poor visibility under the bridge where the collision occurred. That bridge was not lit. Mr Butt was wearing dark clothing. That may have made him harder to see.
“The vehicle was being driven well within the speed limit. The evidence suggests the bike was in the blind spot of the lorry, on the near side, just in front of the lorry’s cab.
“Mr Butt may have been partly visble from the cab for a fraction of a second, the evidence suggests 0.8 seconds. This was at a time the driver would have been appropriately doing many checks where doing the manoevre.
“On the balance of probability, the lorry was indicating left when changing lane. It is absolutely relevant that the driver was a very experienced HGV driver. He knew the lorry and the road in question.
“There is no evidence whatsoever of any fault or blame on the part of Mr Butt himself. Mr Butt was hit by the front of the vehicle and tragically passed under the near-side wheel. Despite attempts to resuscitate from passers-by, Mr Butt died at the scene.
“This case shows yet again the difficulties and the dangers of roads used by cycles, cars and lorries. In this matter there is no evidence of fault on the part of either Mr Butt himself as a cyclist or the driver of the lorry. It shows the need for extreme care and every precaution for both cyclists and drivers.
“The point is that until traffic systems are safer, the sad reality, and it is a sad reality, is that it is really an issue that is left up to the cyclist to make themselves as clearly visible as possible. I think we all sewe the problems that that creates.”
Vauxhall Cross had since been remodelled by Transport for London, with the installation of a segregated cycle superhighway. Mr Barlow said this may be of some consolation to the family, but added: “We all know there are many other locations in which the risks for cyclists are extreme.”