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Hero driver in payout battle

AN ELLESMERE Port lorry driver hailed a hero after steering his run-away tanker away from a school is in line for a six-figure compensation payout.

AN ELLESMERE Port lorry driver hailed a hero after steering his run-away tanker away from a school is in line for a six-figure compensation payout.

But after a four-year battle to prove the vehicle's defective brakes were to blame for the smash, it could be up to a year before the exact amount is decided.

Robert Pryor, 41, suffered massive multiple injuries and nearly died three times following the horrific crash on September 20, 1996.

He was trapped in the cab of his tanker after the brakes failed going down a hill on the B4391 at Llanffestiniog in North Wales while delivering fuel from Shell's Stanlow Refinery.

As he sped out of control towards a T-junction he bravely decided to attempt the more difficult left turn away from a tiny village school.

But as the tanker ran away with him he smashed into a stone wall and as a result lost both legs as well as suffering a smashed pelvis, a fractured jaw and skull and breaking all his ribs.

Later, as he lay desperately ill in hospital, his kidneys and liver failed.

Details of Mr Pryor's ordeal emerged during a damages hearing at Liverpool High Court in which he sued his employers, Bates & Hunt (Petroleum) of Dorrington, Shrewsbury.

The company strongly denied liability and disputed two of the tanker's six brakes, which were maintained by an outside contractor, failed and they claimed the accident occurred because Mr Pryor was driving too fast.

But on the fourth day of the trial an out-of-court settlement was reached on the basis of Mr Pryor admitting 50% contributory negligence.

Speaking about his ordeal in his specially adapted Ellesmere Port home, he says the last four years have been a nightmare. He said: 'I felt it was my duty to try and steer the tanker away from the village.

'I could have bailed out and still been dancing now but the tanker would have ploughed into the village school and there was no way I was going to allow that to happen.

'I lost one leg at the scene of the crash and was air-lifted to hospital. In the helicopter I died and they shocked me to bring me back. On several occasions my family were told I wouldn't make it through the night and to say their goodbyes but there was no way I was going to give in.'

Against all the odds Mr Pryor stunned doctors and pulled through. He was transferred to Clatterbridge Hospital and later Arrowe Park to be closer to home. But his battle to survive was only just beginning and he says his life has been turned upside down.

He said: 'I lost my health, my livelihood and the strain finished my marriage. But the fight for me was not about money and compensation, it was about proving it wasn't my fault.'

Both sides are now in discussion to agree a compensation figure but if this proves impossible another trial will have to take place for a judge to decide.

Joe Skinner, of Birkenhead-based legal firm J M Skinner and Co which is representing Mr Pryor, says it could take another 12 months to determine the compensation. He said: 'It will be a very high claim, certainly six figures, taking into account the length of time, loss of earnings and physical injuries.'

Nobody from Bates & Hunt was available for comment.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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