Coroner demands road safety improvements at Warren's Inquest
A CORONER is demanding action on a Huntingdon road where 16-year-old Warren Hay was killed and dozens of motorists have been injured. At an inquest on Thursday, coroner David Morris asked why nothing had been done before. He said he shared the distress o
A CORONER is demanding action on a Huntingdon road where 16-year-old Warren Hay was killed and dozens of motorists have been injured.
At an inquest on Thursday, coroner David Morris asked why nothing had been done before.
He said he shared the distress of Warren’s family about the dangers facing pedestrians crossing the A141 and would write to Cambridgeshire County Council calling for action to prevent further tragedies.
Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Morris said: “Though this is the legal verdict, I feel a letter is appropriate to indicate my general concern about the crossing where this young man lost his life.
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“It is almost certain that I will endorse the family’s concerns and ask the planning authority to look into this crossing. If lessons can be learned for the future then they should be learned to prevent anything like this happening again.”
In an unusual step, the coroner asked for explanations from council officials about the lack of safe pedestrian access to the football pitches at Jubilee Park in Huntingdon.
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The county council said it had recommended a footpath to the district council at the time, but the planning application was passed without the recommendations being taken up. The district council, in turn, said providing a footpath was the responsibility of the town council. The town council was not represented at the inquest.
Warren’s mother, Maxine Hay, attended the inquest with Warren’s twin sister Rebecca, friends, family and members of the Warren Hay Road Safety Action Group.
Mrs Hay told The Hunts Post the campaign for safety improvements on the A141 would now be stepped up in the light of the coroner’s comments.
She said: “Mr Morris’s letter is more than we expected. He agreed with us that this was an accident but he recognised that the footpath leads pedestrians directly onto the A141 into the path of oncoming traffic.”
Warren, of Robin Terrace, Alconbury, died after stepping out in front of a red Vauxhall Corsa on the A141 on May 8. He was on his way to watch a football match at Jubilee Park with a group of friends. The 16-year-old died in Addenbrooke’s Hospital five days later from severe brain injuries.
Warren’s family, witnesses and the coroner accepted that the driver, Brian White, 55, of March, was not to blame.
Mr Morris said: “There was nothing that could have been done to avoid the impact. It is a great tragedy that Warren stepped out quite innocently.”
The court heard how the group crossed the first lane of the carriageway together and stood in the hatched area in the middle of the road close to the Kings Ripton Road junction. A silver car then slowed down to let them cross. In evidence, Mr White said he saw roughly five of the group finish crossing in front of the car directly before his. Moments later as he reached the same point, Warren, who had not managed to cross with the group, stepped out in front of the Corsa. Mr White said: “It was just as though the road was clear and then it wasn’t.”
Mr Morris said: “Warren anticipated the move of the group but he could not clearly see the approaching Corsa and stepped into its path.”
Stuart Angus of Upwell, who was travelling a few cars behind the Corsa, said: “My wife remembers hearing me shout out no don’t’, because I knew the lad was not going to make it across the road.” Mr Angus administrated first aid to Warren at the scene.
Remembering the accident, Warren’s friend, 17-year-old Jacob Evans, said: “Warren took two or three steps forward and the approaching Corsa was almost on him. I wanted to shout to him but the words did not come out.”
The inquest heard that the youngsters crossed at the only pedestrian access point to get to Jubilee Park from the Sapley Road estate. The road is lined with fences apart from a small gap with a footpath that leads to the road.
After Warren’s death, more than 12,000 people signed a petition calling for safety improvements to the A141.
Understanding the degree of public interest, Mr Morris took the unusual step of inviting Mark Kemp, director of highways and access for Cambridgeshire County Council, and Steve Ingram, head of planning services for Huntingdonshire District Council to answer questions at the inquest – about placing football pitches out of town and next to a fast road.
Mr Kemp explained that, at the time of the planning application to site the football pitches at Jubilee Park in King’s Ripton, the county council asked planners to incorporate a pedestrian and cycle way to Jubilee Park. Mr Morris said these recommendations “had not been followed through”.
In response, Mr Ingram said the recommendations were considered but not implemented “for whatever reason”.
He added that funding for a footpath to Jubilee Park was the responsibility of Huntingdon Town Council because they were the developers of the site. (Neither official was working for the councils at the time).
Since Warren’s death, the county council has proposed a £160,000 improvement scheme, to include a central island and a ban on right turns into and out of the junction. The scheme will compete for funding at the meeting of the council’s cabinet in December.
However, the Warren Hay Action Group does not believe the scheme goes far enough. Mrs Hay said: “An island is not enough. We would like a bridge over the road or a light-controlled crossing. All we want to do is make the road safe for people to cross and I will not rest until we have done that.”
The county council has said it would consider looking at other options for the site if third party funding became available.
INFORMATION: Blue wrist bands with In Memory Of Warren’ inscribed on them are to be sold for £1 each to raise money for the campaign. For more information phone John Dunleavy on 01480 350507. Do you think the council should introduce safety measures on the A141 and if so what do you think they should consist of? E-mail your views to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to: The Hunts Post, 30 High Street, Huntingdon, Cambs, PE29 3TB.