Investigation after icy road death crash

HIGHWAYS bosses in Suffolk were told by the police to get the gritters out less than 30 minutes before a young man died in a crash on untreated road, the Evening Star can reveal today.

HIGHWAYS bosses in Suffolk were told by the police to get the gritters out less than 30 minutes before a young man died in a crash on untreated road, the Evening Star can reveal today.

A 19-year-old woman is also fighting for her life at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge following the crash on the B1077 between Witnesham and Ashbocking yesterday.

The accident was the third on that road yesterday morning after highways bosses decided it was not necessary to grit the road.

But following a police request for the road to be gritted, gritting lorries had to come from 20 miles away and did not reach the B1077 at Witnesham until after the fatal accident.

The driver of a Renault Clio, a 24-year-old man from the Woodbridge area, died when the car came off the B1077 on a straight section of road between Witnesham and Ashbocking.

Two other young people were taken to Ipswich Hospital suffering from cuts and bruises.

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As reported in yesterday's Evening Star, there had already been two accidents on the road - at the junction with the A1120 near Pettaugh and on the outskirts of Witnesham - which had prompted us to ask whether the road had been gritted.

The fatal accident happened about an hour after the Star had been told that the road had been gritted on Tuesday afternoon, but it had not been considered necessary to grit it yesterday morning.

When the gritters were sent out they came from the county's east highway's depot 20 miles away in Saxmundham rather than its Mid Suffolk base at Blakenham, just five miles from Witnesham.

This was because Blakenham serves the Mid Suffolk area and Witnesham comes under the eastern area.

Police officers examining the scene of the accident would not say whether ice on the road had been a factor, but the closed section of the road had still not been gritted when the Star arrived at the scene - and the surface was slightly slippery underfoot.

Sheltered areas were still frosty and it is believed that the condition of the road was a factor in the accident.

Inspector Trevor Sharman said the cause was still being investigated.

He said: “This is a tragic accident. By the time we got here the driver was dead and a woman - the front seat passenger - suffered very serious injuries and was initially taken to Ipswich Hospital.”

The vehicle came off the road and ended up on its roof in a dip surrounded by small trees and large bushes.

Firefighters were called in to help remove the injured woman and the body of the driver.

When the Star went to the scene of the accidents it was clear that much of the B1077 had been recently gritted - but not the closed section of the road which had been the scene of two of the accidents, including the fatal crash.

n. Do you know the people involved in the crash? Did you drive on that road yesterday? Phone The Evening Star news desk on 01473 324788 or email


COUNTY council highways spokesman Guy McGregor said today that officials would study the findings of the police report into the accident to see if they should change their gritting policy.

But he emphasised that highly-trained professional members of staff took the decision on whether to grit the roads.

He said: “There are many factors to consider such as whether the road surface is getting colder or warming up.

“Yesterday morning as I was driving the temperature was actually falling according to the gauge in my car.

“Once we have the full report on the accident from the police, we will talk about it with them and look at our involvement.

“My heart goes out to those involved in the accident - but we also have to look at educating drivers about the dangers of driving in difficult conditions and driving appropriately in circumstances like this.”

A county council spokeswoman said: “The road was gritted on Tuesday afternoon as a precaution which should have prevented it from freezing overnight.

“Our gritters were out again yesterday morning from 4.30am, but after studying the data engineers felt it was not necessary to grit the B1077 road again.

“The police asked us to send the gritters out again at 10am which we immediately agreed to do. Sadly the fatal accident happened before they reached that part of the road.

“We will be working with the police to establish what caused the accident and our thoughts are very much with the family at this time.”

“The manager who made the decision not to grit roads like the B1077 actually used that road in the morning - but it was not a decision made on a whim. Very clear procedures were followed before the decision was made.”