Coroner wants action on death-crash road

By James MortlockA CORONER is to write to highways bosses about a “treacherous” bend on a country road which claimed the life of a father of two young boys.

By James Mortlock

A CORONER is to write to highways bosses about a “treacherous” bend on a country road which claimed the life of a father of two young boys.

“Happy-go-lucky” banger racer Christopher Crockett was killed on his 34th birthday when his Transit van overturned after it was in collision with a lorry on the narrow road, known as Silver Street, in Withersfield, near Haverhill.

During an inquest in Bury St Edmunds yesterday, greater Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean heard concerns from Mr Crockett's family over the safety of the road and its suitability for heavy trucks.


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Crash investigator Pc Andrew Garden said he would recommend new signs warning drivers of the sharp bend - at the top of a hill - should be put up.

Dr Dean said he would back the suggestions and write to Suffolk County Council.

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The coroner, who recorded a verdict of accidental death, added: “It seems that what took place was a very tragic accident in circumstances where the geography of the road and the presence or absence of signs would need to be looked at to see if a similar tragedy can be avoided.

“There is not an easy solution, but there are matters here which do need to be looked at to try to prevent similar fatalities in the future.”

Dr Dean said Mr Crockett's van had collided with the lorry - driven by Alan Langford - in August last year and overturned some distance from the impact site.

“Christopher took avoiding action, driving up the verge, but it appears it was a very difficult situation for him to recover from that course of action and the effect of the collision was the tipping over of the Transit on to its side,” he added.

“Christopher came partly out of the window and suffered the full impact as the vehicle hit the ground. But it would appear from all the medical evidence that he would not have known what had happened.”

Pathologist Dr Lamios Munthali said Mr Crockett, of Caudle Avenue, Lakenheath, had died of a severe head injury.

Mr Langford said he had just been starting work early on August 27 when he got to the bend on the C668 road.

He added the first he had known of the Transit had been seeing a “white flash” in the corner of his eye.

“The van seemed to come round the corner from nowhere. There was a white flash - as I watched it seemed to go in slow motion. It wobbled and seemed to disappear behind the truck,” said Mr Langford.

“I ran back and could see the driver was trapped. He was quite still. I expected him to be shouting or screaming, but there was no movement.”

Pc Garden told the inquest examiners had found Mr Crockett, a ventilation engineer who had been on his way to work, had not been wearing a seatbelt, but he doubted that would have made any difference to the end result.

He said signs warning of the bend could be the way forward and told the coroner he would put the suggestions to roads bosses.

However, he rejected calls from Mr Crockett's family, made during the inquest, for lorries to be banned from the road.

“I wouldn't think that's a realistic option, but raising awareness of the bend with specific signing is one option to consider. A general bends warning sign would be my recommendation,” said Pc Garden.

He said as far as speed was concerned, although neither driver had been exceeding the limit, it “may have been appropriate for the Transit to have approached that bend at a slower speed”.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Crockett's father, John, described the road as treacherous and called for it to be shut to lorries.

He welcomed the coroner's words, but stressed: “We will have to see if any action is ever taken. At the end of the day I expect this will become another accident blackspot where nothing ever gets done.”

Rod Sore, Suffolk County Council's safety engineer, said: “We will study the coroner's findings carefully in order to see if future road safety improvements can be made.

“Specific recommendations made to the county council by the coroner following this tragic accident will be given our fullest priority.”

james.mortlock@eadt.co.uk

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