The death of a Penryn woman in a car accident last year could have been avoided if she and her husband had not accepted the offer of a lift, an inquest in Truro has heard.
Bridget Toy, 61, was killed along with retired Lieutenant Commander Jeremy Tetley, 82, from Grampound, a former Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, when the silver BMW he was driving was hit by Nathan Shields’ Fiat Ducato van at the junction of the B3292 and Brown's hill in Penryn on July 3, 2013.
Mrs Toy’s husband, Nigel, a front seat passenger who survived the crash, told assistant coroner Barrie van den Berg that while waiting for the lift from Mr Tetley, she had told him “we could have walked or taken the bus.”
Mr Toy described how the group had planned to travel through the centre of Penryn to the quay where Mr Tetley’s boat was moored, but were prevented by a police block on the main road, which seemed to anger Mr Tetley.
He said: “I tried to make light of it by saying ‘that’s life’ but he made no reply.”
Mr Toy described his uneasiness at Mr Tetley’s agitated state, saying he had considered asking him to stop the car, and was distracted enough to not be fully aware of how he was driving.
He said: “All of a sudden I felt the car slowing and we were half way across the main road.
“I remember him peering past me to the left, up the hill, when there was an almighty bang and I blacked out. He didn’t stop at the junction.”
When asked whether Mr Tetley had looked down the road to his right, Mr Toy said he hadn’t.
Nathan Shields, from Penzance, told the court he was driving back from Penryn to Lanner, when Mr Tetley pulled out in front of him.
He said: “I remember the BMW trundling across the road, as if he aimed to stop, but in the wrong place.”
“He came out as I approached the opening of the junction. It was over in a flash.”
The inquest heard from several other witnesses, who gave conflicting statements about whether or not Mr Tetley had stopped at the junction, and if so for how long, however all agreed that Mr Shileds could have done nothing to prevent the crash. The hearing was also told, by Anthony Zee of Camborne’s serious collision unit, that had Mr Tetley survived the crash, he would be “likely to be prosecuted”, before being told that such information was not relevant to the matter at hand.
Following his death, Mr Tetley was found to have a blood alcohol level of 30mg per 100ml, but the inquest heard that this did not necessarily mean he had been drinking on the day of the crash as it could have been his body metabolising alcohol, and no relationship can be inferred between the toxicology results and the accident.
Giving his verdict, Mr van den Berg said: “I would conclude the accident happened as a result of the BMW being in the middle of the road when it was not safe to do so.”
He said of Mr Shields: “While it is never pleasant to be in a collision, the evidence is that it is not his fault.”
A verdict of death by road traffic collision was recorded for both Mrs Toy and Mr Tetley.
Following the inquest, Mr Toy said: “I think most people have come to the same conclusion over this tragic incident, and hopefully we can put the matter behind us.”