Three Killed In Crash – Builder’s Lorry Turns Over (picture)

September 1951

South Yorkshire Times, September 1st, 1951



A man who called ambulances to Low Road, Conisbrough, on Tuesday evening to a crash in which three men lost their lives and injured men were scattered all over the road, told a “South Yorkshire Times” reporter he was probably the first man to see the overturned lorry, its wheels still spinning immediately after the mishap.

Mr. Alan Burton, 47, Lime Grove, Conisbrough, said he was working nearby when about 5.30 he heard a loud bang. Rushing out he saw the stricken lorry on its side, slewed across the main road.

“Like a Slaughterhouse”

Men were strewn all over the place Mr. Burton said, and in a few seconds, “it was like a slaughterhouse.”  Mr. Burton said, he dashed to the nearby Conisbrough telephone exchange, called ambulances and ran back down the road to warn approaching traffic of what lay in the dip below.

Two men were killed outright: James Osborne (23) of 29, Marr Street, Denaby Main and William Powell (17) of 11, The Green, Highfield Farm Estate. A third later died in Doncaster Royal Infirmary. He was John Williams (28) 23, Don View, Mexborough.

Seven other men were detained at Doncaster Royal Infirmary and four others treated at Mexborough Montagu Hospital.

Seven in Hospital

The driver of the lorry William Reginald Gelder of 20, Cliff View, Denaby, was one of the seven injured in Doncaster Royal Infirmary. With him in the cab were two foremen, Charles Skipper (41) of 20, Park Avenue, Mexborough, and Charles Johnson (35), of 43, Valley Road, Swinton. Both were treated in Mexborough Montagu Hospital with two other men Joseph Stevens (24) of 21, Windhill Avenue, Mexborough, and George William Marshall (21) of 8, Balby Street, Denaby.

Although many people in houses in Low Road heard the grinding crash when the lorry overturned, none saw the accident, and police are seeking eye-witnesses.  The crash and the men’s shouts quickly drew a crowd and people in nearby houses took out drinks and bandages for the victims.

Two men had lucky escapes; one of them Mr. Ken Cooper, 75, Doncaster Road, Conisbrough started work with Mr. Ben Bailey, building contractor of Mexborough, the lorry owner, only the previous day. He had alighted from the lorry at Brook Square only half a mile from the scene of the accident. The other man Clifford Rigby of Wadworth Street, Denaby who would normally have been on the lorry had left the vehicle in Conisbrough – to see a friend.

The mishap occurred in the foot of the dip on the cobbled stretch of Low Road leading up to the Star Hotel. A reporter was told there had been a light shower only a few minutes before the accident and that the “greasy” surface of the road may have caused a skid. Twenty-five men were travelling in the lorry, one of two on its way from Rossington to Mexborough.  Ben Bailey told a reporter it was the firms first accident in years, either on the roads or on building sites. “We have prided ourselves on our record” he said.

One of the first out was Mr. Abraham Holland of Pretoria Cottages, Low Road. Mr. Holland an ambulance officer, was followed by his wife carrying a first aid kit. “The scene on the road was like a battlefield” he said “with two or three men crawling away on their hands and knees to reach the footpath.”  One man did not wait for help to come to him. He ran into the home of Mrs. A. Nicholson, bleeding from the head, and asking for his lost spectacles.

Another victim Wilfred Hudson of Carlton Street, Denaby, made his own way home despite bruises and shock. He was rendered unconscious by the crash, but said on recovering that he and his mates first realised something was wrong when the lorry began swaying.

“Mind Went Blank”

Another man who walked home nearly a mile was George Marshall of Balby Street, Denaby, but he did not know what had happened. “The canopy came up about four inches and my mind went blank,” he told a reporter the next day. “People say I was holding up traffic, but I don’t know.  I walked from the accident myself – people say I looked drunk – and sat down to my tea, I didn’t know a thing.”  When he entered the house, he hung up his clothes in a different place and it was obvious he was dazed.

Neither he or his parents knew anything until his sister passed the scene of the accident by bus. George’s father sent for a doctor and he was treated for bruised ribs and shock at Mexborough.

It is believed that the lorry skidded going downhill, swung to the right and struck a trolley bus standard. Part of the wood and metal canopy covering the men at the back was torn off and the lorry overturned on its offside, blocking half of the road.   Police kept the traffic moving in a single line, and among helpers at the accident were doctors and two clergymen.

The injured at Doncaster are James Williams (25) of 24, Don View, Mexborough (brother of one of the dead men), Laurence Cooper of 5, High Street, Thurnscoe; Cyril Whitehouse of Church Street, Mexborough, Gerald Sampson of 53, Tickhill Street, Denaby and William Billington of 63, George Street, Highgate.

Those who escaped injury in the lorry are J. Salter of 20, Addison Road, Mexborough; T. Hazeldine of 23, Butcher Street, Thurnscoe; S. Lloyd of 39, Deightonby Street, Thurnscoe; M. W. Hammond of 9, Whitelea Road, Swinton; M. Taylor of 6, Meadow View Road, Kilnhurst and E. and B. Thompson of 189, Queen Street, Swinton, brothers.