Witham: Great-grandmother drowned after driving mobility scooter into river
A GREAT-GRANDMOTHER who lost control of her mobility scooter and drove into a river died as a result of an accident, an inquest has heard.
Rose Phillips, 69, of Larkspur Close, Witham, was pulled from the River Brain by police officers after her scooter had been spotted in the water by a man walking his dog.
After attempts to resuscitate her she was pronounced dead at the scene near River’s Walk, Witham, on February 2, 2010.
At an inquest into her death in Chelmsford yesterday, assistant deputy coroner for Essex, Chinyere Inyama, said it was “clear from the tyre marks she was trying to regain control of the vehicle” and gave a verdict of accidental death.
Giving evidence, Paul Cridland, who discovered Mrs Phillips’ body while out walking his dog at about 6.30pm, said he noticed “something shining” in the water and realised it was a mobility scooter.
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Initially he thought children might have stolen it, but when he saw shopping items floating in the river he decided to call the emergency services.
PC Stephen Frost arrived on the scene at about 7.30pm and began searching the river with his torch. He told the inquest that he realised that the situation was “serious” when he saw a shoe floating by the scooter.
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When he discovered her body he said he waded into the river and “threw his arms under the water to try and lift her out”.
“She was wearing a thick coat which had become heavy with water and it was all I could do to lift her head out,” he said.
PC Frost was able to pull Mrs Phillips’ body back to the river bank and, with the help of another police office, get her out of the water and attempt to resuscitate her.
Forensic collision investigator Steven Perrett said that the mobility scooter had a maximum speed of 4mph and although they had discovered a problem with the parking brake, did not believe that this contributed to the accident.
He said the track marks in the mud showed that the mobility scooter had been “veering left and right”.
“The path taken suggests that she was having problems keeping to the footpath,” he said. “She was struggling to work out where the path was and her left turn away from the river was too late – there wasn’t enough room.”
A post mortem did not reveal any medical problems that may have contributed to the accident and investigators said there was no evidence to suggest that another person or vehicle was involved.
Family members including Mrs Phillips daughter Sian Button attended the inquest but did not wish to comment.
At the time of her death the family released a statement which said: “Rose was a much-loved wife, mum of four, nan to10 grandchildren and great-nanny to three great-grandchildren.
“She will leave a big hole in our lives and will be greatly missed.”