Runaway van killed midwife - inquest

A DRIVERLESS van which rolled down a hill, hitting and killing a midwife, did not have the handbrake sufficiently pulled on and was overweight, an inquest has heard.

A DRIVERLESS van which rolled down a hill, hitting and killing a midwife, did not have the handbrake sufficiently pulled on and was overweight, an inquest has heard.

Lynda Ling, 56, suffered severe head injuries and was pinned under the back of the white Iveco van, unreachable to bystanders who tried to go to her aid.

She had been walking her black Labrador dog along Foxhall Road, in Ipswich, when the van, which had been parked facing uphill partly on the pavement and partly on the road, started to roll backwards down the 4% gradient.

It moved across the road, narrowly missing a car, and gathered speed until it mounted the pavement, striking Mrs Ling and coming to a stop against a sign and wooden fence.

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Mrs Ling, an Ipswich Hospital midwife who had not been working for seven weeks due to the hospital's organisational shake-up, had her back to the van and appears to have been unaware of it quietly coming towards her, as it did not have its engine running.

But yesterday's inquest, at Endeavour House, Ipswich, heard that the handbrake setting that the van had been parked with was “insufficient” to stop it moving.

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In a statement read out at the inquest, crash investigator Pc Jeff Cribb said Vincent Clarke, the driver, had left the van locked and secure.

When he had parked, the brakes had been hot and he applied the handbrake to “three clicks”, the statement said.

As the vehicle, which was left in neutral, had not moved after he had parked it, Mr Clarke had thought it would stay stationary, Pc Cribb said.

But the officer said: “The three click setting was insufficient to hold the vehicle against the slope and against the effects of gravity and it began to roll back down the hill.”

The investigation found that a setting of four clicks or more would have stopped the vehicle rolling.

The inquest also heard that after the vehicle was recovered from the scene it was found to be overweight by 280kgs.

Alex Russell and John Bull, who were in a van facing down the hill towards the Nuffield Hospital, witnessed the accident on August 30 last year.

Mr Russell recalled seeing the van rolling down the hill, crossing the path of a car and narrowly missing the vehicle.

He said he heard a scream and the van came to a “shuddering stop”. He and his colleague had tried to warn Mrs Ling, but had been unable to do so in time.

There were no keys or driver in the van and despite shouting out to Mrs Ling, who was under the rear of the car, there was no response, the inquest heard.

Paul Hill, another witness, said in a statement that he had climbed underneath the van and tried to locate a pulse on Mrs Ling's neck but it was not possible to administer first aid due to her position.

Mrs Ling was pronounced dead at the scene by a paramedic.

Before recording a verdict of accidental death, Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean said it was “highly likely” that Mrs Ling would not have known what was happening.

He said: “What took place that day was clearly a tragic but unforeseen accident. The word accident is neutral in law. It does not say if there is blame or no blame attached.”

A statement read out at the inquest from Mrs Ling's husband of 11 years, Andrew, who works at Sizewell B power station, said he last saw his wife at 6.45am on the day of the accident.

They had breakfast together and parted on good terms, he said, describing them as a “happy couple”.

After her death, Mrs Ling's husband and sons, James and Paul Dodd, described her as a popular and loving wife and mother who would be deeply missed.

n Vincent Clarke, 43, of Kingfisher Rise, Saxmundham, appeared before South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court last month accused of failing to apply a handbrake and having a vehicle over the weight shown on the plate certificate.

He has not yet entered a plea but expressed in court the turmoil he has faced since the accident. He is due to appear in court again next Tuesday .

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