The Wokingham Paper

Father ‘would have still been alive if he’d worn his seatbelt’, inquest told


A MAN from Shinfield died after the car his son was driving lost control and crashed into a tree.

Paul Draper, 60, who lived in Hollow Lane, died in Southampton General Hospital on February 1 this year following the fatal crash in Grazeley on January 21.

An inquest, held at Reading Town Hall on Tuesday, heard how Mr Draper’s son Luke Walsh was driving his father and younger brother, Dylan Draper, from dinner in Reading to a go-karting track when he lost control of his red Honda Civic and ploughed into a tree in Mortimer Road.

Mr Draper, who was sitting in the rear of the car, was not wearing his seatbelt and was thrown from the car, sustaining significant brain and spinal injuries.

Mr Walsh and Dylan Draper, who was 14 at the time of the crash, were both sitting in the front seats of the car, and walked away only with minor injuries.

The inquest heard how Mr Walsh had described losing control of his car on what he felt was a patch of ice.

He said in a police statement immediately following the crash that, when exiting the vehicle, he slipped which led him to believe that the road was slippery.

However, crash investigators concluded that the road had been sufficiently gritted less than two hours before the collision happened, and that the road was not icy.

Witnesses who saw or heard the collision said in statements that they had seen a red car driving ‘at speed’ immediately before the crash.

PC Michaela Kerr, from Hampshire Police, said that examinations of the skid marks caused by Mr Walsh’s car indicated that the vehicle had crossed over the central white line when the driver had applied his brakes, but was unable to ascertain how fast he had been travelling along the 40mph road.

She explained it was likely that when Mr Walsh’s vehicle had entered the opposing carriageway it had passed over an adverse camber, causing Mr Walsh to over-correct his steering, and leading him to lose control of the car.

She said: “Once he hit critical speed yaw, and the tyres had lost traction, it is near impossible to correct that.

“The crash investigators ran a series of tests with a similar vehicle travelling at 45mph, and the bend was easily negotiated when driving appropriately.

“But as Mr Walsh had passed into the opposite lane, he would have hit an adverse camber when the road slopes away to the kerb, which to him may have felt like he had hit a patch of ice.”

Mr Walsh’s car was examined, and was found to be in good working order and in a serviceable condition prior to the collision.

Critically, PC Kerr said that had Mr Draper been wearing his seatbelt at the time of the collision, he would not have been thrown from the car and would probably have survived.

The coroner, Ravi Sidhu noted that the Crown Prosecution Service had chosen not to take the matter further, and that he would not be referring the case back to them.

He said: “This family has been through enough.

“There is very strong evidence to suggest that Mr Draper was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the collision, and I can say, given that the other two passengers in the car were wearing their seatbelts and walked away with relatively minor injuries, he would have survived if he had been wearing his.

“We need to ask why Mr Walsh lost control.

“Of course, he did not deliberately manoeuvre his vehicle to hit a tree. I am satisfied there was nothing wrong with his vehicle, and there were no other vehicles involved, which leaves the road surface and the manner of Mr Walsh’s driving, which led him to lose control.

“We all tend to be mindful of driving conditions, and alter our driving and speed accordingly. If it is cold and we feel like we are losing grip, careful drivers tend to slow down.

“We know that Mr Walsh lost control when he was on the northbound carriageway. I cannot deduce why he was there, there is not sufficient evidence.

“We have heard some evidence from people who were driving or in the vicinity at the time, and despite the fact that some of their statements were taking some time later, they all seem to suggest the same thing.

“Somebody was driving inappropriately, in the sense of a speed that was excessive. That was the communal impact of their evidence.

“The vehicle’s speed was inappropriate because is was excessive for the bend.

“I can conclude that Mr Draper died as a result of a road traffic collision caused by the speed and path of the vehicle which were inappropriate for the conditions.

“The injuries sustained by the deceased were escalated in part by him not wearing his seatbelt. I don’t think it would be right not to mention that given the minor injuries to the others in the vehicle.

“Mr Draper’s death was untimely and a tragedy, and my condolences go to the family.”

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