Couple 'had no chance' as tree hit car
AN ELDERLY couple who were killed when a large beech tree fell on their car in strong winds had "no chance" of avoiding it, an inquest has been told.John Barnes, 76, and his 77-year-old wife Joan, of Selwyn Road, Gorleston, had been travelling along the A12 north of Lowestoft on Saturday, March 20, when tragedy struck.
By David Lennard
AN ELDERLY couple who were killed when a large beech tree fell on their car in strong winds had "no chance" of avoiding it, an inquest has been told.
John Barnes, 76, and his 77-year-old wife Joan, of Selwyn Road, Gorleston, had been travelling along the A12 north of Lowestoft on Saturday, March 20, when tragedy struck.
When their silver Rover hatchback reached the junction with Gunton Avenue, the 70ft beech tree fell without warning crushing the car, the inquest in Lowestoft heard yesterday.
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Roy Senior, of Bradwell, near Great Yarmouth, had been driving immediately behind the couple's car when the tree came crashing down on to the road.
"There was no warning whatsoever. This large tree just fell across the road and on top of the car in front of me.
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"I never saw the car driver take any avoiding action and he had no chance of avoiding the tree," said Mr Senior.
Together with other motorists Mr Senior called the emergency services and tried to give what help he could to the couple trapped in the wreckage.
Marlene Smith, a nurse at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, had been travelling towards Lowestoft on the A12 and the falling tree only narrowly missed hitting the car she was in.
Mrs Smith, of Woodcock Close, Norwich, said she tried to give what medical help she could until the ambulance arrived.
"I did discover a pulse in the gentleman who was driving but it had gone in the few minutes it took the ambulance to arrive," she said.
A post mortem examination later revealed that both Mr and Mrs Barnes died of severe head injuries.
Tree surgeon Alistair Whitehall, of Haughley, near Stowmarket, told the inquest that the beech tree had been weakened as its roots were being attacked by three separate types of fungi.
He said that one particular type of fungi had weakened the tree's root system so much that it could have fallen at any time.
"The problem with this type of fungi is that the tree appears perfectly healthy with a full canopy and it is extremely difficult to detect just by looking at it," said Mr Whitehall.
It was only after the tree had fallen and when tests had been completed on the roots that the fungi were detected.
Lowestoft Coroner George Leguen de Lacroix recorded a verdict of accidental death on both Mr and Mrs Barnes.
He said that on that particular day a large part of East Anglia had been hit by strong winds that were gusting up to 70mph.
Mr Leguen de Lacroix expressed his deepest sympathy to Mr and Mrs Barnes' daughter, Rosemary Knell, who attended the inquest.
"The chance of a tree falling on a car as in this case is remote but unfortunately it does happen from time to time," said the Coroner.