Danger of icy road raised before crash

POLICE tried to warn highways officers about the dangers of an icy road 25 minutes before a double fatal accident, it emerged today.The inquest into the deaths of Kirsten Duffus, 19, and Henry Wingate, 24, revealed that police officers tried to contact Suffolk County Council.

POLICE tried to warn highways officers about the dangers of an icy road 25 minutes before a double fatal accident, it emerged today.

The inquest into the deaths of Kirsten Duffus, 19, and Henry Wingate, 24, revealed that police officers tried to contact Suffolk County Council at about 9.50am on December 12 last year to say that the B1077 near Ashbocking needed to be gritted following an earlier accident on the road.

They could not get through because council staff were on a fire drill and eventually made contact with them at 10.02am. The accident happened at 10.15am.

Miss Duffus and Mr Wingate were travelling to Mr Wingate's grandfather's funeral at Ipswich Crematorium when the Renault Clio left the road. Mr Wingate, whose mother lives in Laxfield, was pronounced dead at the scene while Miss Duffus, who lived in Burgate, died at Addenbrooke's Hospital the following day.

Also in the car was Mr Wingate's younger brother Max, who was Miss Duffus' boyfriend, and Mr Wingate's girlfriend Natalie Scott. They both escaped with minor injuries.

The inquest, which took place in Ipswich yesterday, heard how Suffolk County Council had gritted the road the previous evening but took the decision not to grit it on the morning of the accident.

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Witness statements read out at the inquest revealed that sections of the road shaded by sunlight were extremely slippy.

Ewan Cameron, who was travelling directly behind the victims' car, described Mr Wingate's driving as “normal and sensible” before the car skidded and left the road.

When Mr Cameron got out of the car following the crash to help the victims he found the road to be “very icy” and noticed that a car behind him also skidded when it stopped.

Derek Oldham, East Area Highways Manager for Suffolk County Council, said following all the available evidence from staff and localised weather reports, the decision not to grit was taken.

He said: “If there was any suggestion at the time of ice then the roads would have been treated but all the evidence at the time pointed to the fact that there was not a problem on the priority one routes.”

Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean recorded a verdict of accidental death for Miss Duffus and Mr Wingate.

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It was heard that a review of the county's roads is set to be carried out after it was revealed that the impact of the car hitting a fence - which was protecting a drainage ditch - resulted in a metal pole puncturing the cockpit of the car.

Dr Dean and said had the fences not been in place Kirsten Duffus and Henry Wingate would have walked away.

He said: “I think that what the deaths have done is focused attention on what the problem is and that is small solace to the families who have lost loved ones who had long lives ahead of them. At least there is something that can be done to reduce similar tragedies in the future and that is a starting point.”

Following the inquest, Oliver Wingate, Henry's dad, said: “I needed to have it recognised that these fences are lethal if you collide with them and I am just glad that we have got the result that we got.”

Pauline Morgan, Kirsten's mum, added: “I am delighted that the council have put plans in place to review the fences.”

The Star sent these list of questions to the police and Suffolk County Council after the deaths.

Questions for police:

Did officers attend each of the three accidents on the B1077 that morning? What time did they go and what time were the crashes recorded on your logs?

Were the officers who attended local beat officers or traffic officers?

What time did officers ask Suffolk County Council to attend to grit the roads?

Was there a delay between the second accident and the alert to Suffolk County Council and if so why?

Was consideration given to close the road until it had been gritted?

Where were officers after each accident and did they return to base or stay at the scene to act as a warning?

Questions for Suffolk County Council:

Why was the B1077 not gritted on the night?

If no one from Suffolk County Council had travelled the road how could it be considered safe?

What was the time of the alert from Suffolk Police?

What was your exact response to the police request?

What time did you turn out from the depot?

What time did you reach the scene?