Batley man goes on trial after Dewsbury woman crushed by runaway van

CRASH SCENE Emergency services in Willans Road . (D553C318)
CRASH SCENE Emergency services in Willans Road . (D553C318)

A driver has gone on trial accused of causing the death of a mother-of-four who died in front of her children when a runaway van careered down a steep hill and crushed her.

Simran Ahmed, 46, was walking two of her children home from school when the Ford Transit Connect rolled backwards before ploughing into the family.

Van driver Mohammed Karani, 44, left his vehicle “in a neutral position” with the handbrake “only partially applied” while carrying out maintenance work in a building on the steep Swindon Road in Dewsbury, a court heard.

Leeds Crown Court heard Mrs Ahmed died at the scene and her 10-year-old daughter Kiran was left with a fractured skull.

Garage owner Majeed Abdul, who was talking to customers on the forecourt of the garage facing the scene, described in a statement how he saw the van moving backwards down the hill.

He said: “I did think it was a strange manoeuvre as it was in the middle of the road. The next thing I remember was a girl screaming.”

Eyewitness Margaret Dylan, who was speaking to the garage owner, said in a statement read to the jury how she heard a vehicle making a loud sound “like a whizzing sound”.

“I saw the manager’s facial expression and then I heard screams. I looked around and saw a adult female and two young children on the floor.

“The van was facing to the top of the hill. I am trained in first aid and primary care and I ran across the road, stopping the traffic, where I saw a female lying on on the floor with a child stood next to her.”

Opening the trial, prosecutor Stephen Wood told the court Karani was carrying out electrical work at the Medina Academy when the unattended van began to reverse down the hill.

He said: “Mrs Ahmed was crossing the road diagonally onto the left hand pavement. She was in the company of others including two children, one of them her daughter Kiran, aged 10.

“What then unfolded was seen by a number of witnesses and, you may think, must have been traumatic to view.

“Mr Karani’s van, with no-one inside it, moved backwards down Swindon Road slowly picking up speed ultimately reaching about 15mph.

“One witness who saw the vehicle moving that way remembers thinking to himself, ‘brake, brake’.

“But of course it couldn’t brake because there was nobody in it, and that van crushed Simran Ahmed against the wall and seriously injured Kiran. Another young child was also slightly injured.

“Witnesses at the scene immediately thought the worst, and they were right.”

The jury heard how Mrs Ahmed “sustained catastrophic internal injuries from which she simply could not recover”. Her daughter sustained a serious head injury involving fractures to her skull.

Mr Wood added: “There was no defect to the van in any of its systems which could have caused or contributed to the van setting off in the way it did – in other words, it was mechanically sound. The weather was fine and dry. There were no defects in the road surface.

Mr Wood said: “The gear stick was in a neutral position. The parking brake was only applied partially on two notches out of a possible six.”

An investigator had later returned Karani’s van to the scene and applied the brake, finding it was easily able to hold the van in position, the court heard.

The jury heard how Karani, of Batley, later told police “he could not remember” if he had left the van in gear on the steep road.

He denies causing death by careless driving.

The trial continues.