Van driver jailed after 11-year-old boy dies in crash when loose scaffolding equipment hit car windscreen

A van driver has been jailed for four years after failing to secure a scaffolding board which struck the windscreen of a car and left an 11-year-old boy dead.

Russell Le Beau, 34, from Eastbourne, was driving his vehicle on Top Road in Hooe, East Sussex, when a collision took place at around 3pm on 15 December 2022.

He had not secured scaffolding boards on the van properly, causing one of them to become suspended in mid-air at an angle across the carriageway in the opposite direction.

Scaffolding boards are used to provide a platform for construction workers.

The protruding board would have been visible in Le Beau's wing mirror as he was driving, Lewes Crown Court heard.

Lee Dennis was driving his car in the opposite direction with his 11-year-old son Harry in the passenger seat and his 13-year-old daughter in the back.

Mr Dennis had no time to react to prevent the scaffolding board from striking the window of his car and leaving Harry with serious injuries.

The boy had to be flown to Kings College Hospital in London where he died from his injuries days later.

Le Beau was arrested and later charged with causing death by dangerous driving.

What were the HSE findings?

Investigators from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the wooden boards were only clamped down by a metal pole at one end, at the very rear of the van, with no ratchet straps, net or tarpaulin securing them.

They also found there was no straps, net or tarpaulin bag being carried anywhere in the vehicle.

This meant there was nothing to prevent one of the scaffolding boards from swinging out across the carriageway.

The HSE report concluded that load security on the vehicle was "grossly inadequate" and Le Beau had not followed the safe loading of scaffolding guidance.

Le Beau pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving before he was sentenced to four years in prison and was disqualified from driving for seven years.

Tribute from boy's mother

Harry's mother Maria Dennis said after the case: "Harry was our beautiful son with the biggest of smiles and the biggest of hearts.

"His kind, caring and fun nature made such an impact on so many. He would take others under his wing, helping his friends to grow in confidence and to believe in themselves.

"If Harry could make someone laugh it would make his day. His giggle was infectious and we share memories of his antics daily. His smile lives on in us - his family, and his friends."

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The Dennis family said Harry was a "true sportsman", playing football for Hastings Athletic Football Club, and said he always gave 100% in everything he tried, adding "his ambition to win was second to none, but equally he was always humble in defeat".

Delivering the sentence, Judge Christine Laing KC told Le Beau: "You were driving whilst that vehicle was dangerous.

"I have no doubt that you were prepared to take a risk whatever the rush was that day.

"But you set off with catastrophic consequences. You were at the wheel and bear the responsibility for not checking.

"I accept that you didn't intend to cause harm, but you took a most gross risk by driving with an insecure load."