25th Oct, 2016

Wickhamford couple died in 'tragic accident' - coroner

Rob George 1st Sep, 2016 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

THE DEATH of a Wickhamford couple has been branded ‘a tragic accident which could not have been avoided’

Senior coroner for Worcestershire Geraint Williams made the comments at the inquest into the death of Colin Briffett and his wife Natalie who lost their lives on the A44 at Longden Hill on May 1.

The inquest heard how the couple died at the scene after they were hit by Christopher Allen in his Ford Focus.

A post-mortem into their deaths found the pair both suffered multiple injuries in the collision and the inquest heard Mr Briffett was lying in the road before he was struck.

Both had been drinking on the evening of the tragedy but despite an investigation, Home Office pathologist Dr Alexander Kolar could not explain why Mr Briffett was lying in the road before the incident.

PC Neil Taylor, a forensic collision investigator for West Mercia Police, gave evidence and said there was ‘no reason’ why people would cross the road where the incident occurred.

He told the inquest his investigations revealed Mr Allen was travelling between 40 and 45mph when the incident took place, below the speed limit of 60mph and would have had around 22 metres to react.

“Based on my findings, its unlikely Mr Allen would have had any time to apply the brake and avoid hitting Mr and Mrs Briffett,” he said.

The inquest also heard from Mr Allen who revealed he had been at a party on the afternoon of the incident where he had drunk wine from champagne flutes as well as eating food.

Describing the incident, Mr Allen said: “There was a bang, the whole car jumped. I broke and got out of the car expecting to find an animal.”

When he got out the vehicle, Mr Allen said he found Mrs Briffett in front of the car and ‘someone’ shouted there was a body under the car.

“I don’t think there is anything I could have done,” he added.

Mr Allen admitted that oncoming car lights had reflected in his glasses but said: “I never saw anything in the road.

“It was a very dark evening. If I had been dazzled I would have stopped,” he said.

The court heard Mr Allen was breathalysed both at the scene and at the police station but recorded a level below the drink drive limit of 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath.

In conclusion, Mr Williams said it was ‘wholly reasonable and in accordance’ with the Highway Code for Mr Allen to have been driving with dipped headlights and not with full beam because of oncoming vehicles.

“Why they were in the carriageway and not on the side of the road is not known,” he said.

“This was a tragic accident which Christopher Allen could not have avoided.

Mr Williams recorded a verdict of accidental death in both cases.