Driver charged with involuntary homicide over fatal truck accident in Birżebbuġa

The charges relate to an incident which claimed the life of a 71-year-old man from Mġarr who died after being run over by a truck in Triq Wied il-Qoton in Birżebbuġa

A 36-year-old man from Mosta has been charged in connection with a fatal accident in Birżebbuġa that occurred in February 2022. 

Davide Manunta appeared before Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech on Wednesday, arraigned by summons on charges of involuntary homicide and negligent driving. Manunta pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The charges relate to an incident which claimed the life of a 71-year-old man from Mġarr who died after being run over by a truck in Triq Wied il-Qoton in Birżebbuġa.

The court was told that initial investigations showed that the victim had been assisting another worker to manoeuvre a truck when he was hit by the same vehicle.

Police inspector Jonathan Cassar told the court that he had gone to the scene after being informed of the incident. He remembered finding a truck parked diagonally and blocking the road. The accused had identified himself to the inspector as the driver.

The victim had suffered extensive injuries to his head and had already been pronounced dead by an emergency doctor, he said. The two men had been delivering steel mesh to a private residence when the incident happened.

“The truck was huge and could not go through the narrow road. The accused tried reversing, and the victim had been assisting him. When he was manoeuvring the truck, he hit the victim,” Cassar told the court.

“It appears that the victim was sucked under the truck while it was reversing.”

A magisterial inquiry led by then magistrate Doreen Clarke was set up, during the course of which several experts were appointed, including Mario Buttigieg.

The court presided over by magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, observed that Buttigieg was married to the accused’s defence lawyer, Helga Debono.

Debono confirmed this to the court.

Lawyer Roberto Spiteri, who is assisting the family of the victim, expressed his discomfort in this situation.

Cassar handed an excerpt of the report prepared by Buttigieg. Debono said that she had not been consulted during its compilation nor had she been made aware of the findings.

The court noted that the expert had concluded that it “clearly shows that Davide Manunta did not take the necessary precautions while reversing.” She advised the lawyer to consider her position, pointing out that it would be awkward to cross-examine her own husband.

Reading from the excerpt, the court highlights that Buttigieg had concluded that the accused did not take the necessary precautions whilst reversing the truck. “I think the accused should make the necessary declarations,” the court added.

Debono said she was going to ask for the inquiry report before deciding whether to renounce the brief or otherwise.

The prosecution and the court both said that they had never been in such a position. Frendo Dimech consulted the Code of Ethics.

The inspector added that the experts appointed during the inquiry had fulfilled their duties and the inquiry had concluded that the victim’s death was caused by the accused’s negligence. Asked if the accused had released any statements to the police, the prosecution said that Buttigieg took the necessary statements.

“There’s no doubt that Dr Debono will reconsider her position, as justice is not only done but needs to be seen to be done,” Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech said.

Three officers who were onsite, took the witness stand. The first officer recalled the scene, telling the court that he had spoken to the accused, who had told him that the victim got out of the truck to assist him while he reversed and that he had then noticed that the victim was lying on the ground.

The other two constables were tasked with closing off the street. The case continues next month.

Police inspector Jonathan Cassar is prosecuting.

Lawyer Roberto Spiteri appeared as parte civile.

Lawyer Helga Debono assisted the accused.