Safety review after double death on A12

A MUCH-admired couple who were pillars of their community would not have been killed near a level crossing if street lights had been installed, an inquest heard.

A MUCH-admired couple who were pillars of their community would not have been killed near a level crossing if street lights had been installed, an inquest heard.

Gerald and Henny McDonald's tragic deaths on the A12 at Darsham railway station could have been avoided if there had been better safety measures in the area.

The elderly couple, from Gun Hill, Southwold, were killed on December 5, 2006 following a sightseeing trip to London.

They had just come off a train at Darsham station and were crossing the A12 to collect their car from the car park when they were hit by a Renault Clio.


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Mr McDonald, 86, - known as Michael - died at the scene of the accident and his 84-year-old wife died at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge later that evening.

They had been married for 55 years and had led a “full and active life” until the end.

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Recording a verdict of accidental death, Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean told the inquest at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday: “Had this been daylight I am sure we would not be sitting here today.”

He later added: “Everything comes back to the theme throughout this inquest, which was the very, very poor lighting conditions in this area.

“This has certainly been an awful tragedy and hopefully the steps taken will minimise the chances of this happening again.”

Rod Sore, Suffolk County Council's safety engineering manager, told the court how following the accident an investigation had led to improvements at the crossing - which will be completed in the next month.

He outlined how street lighting is being installed over a 400m area to remove treacherous visibility for passengers and drivers as well as work to lower a high kerb used by commuters to cross over the A12.

But he also said that the obvious solution, moving the heavily used rail car park to the same side of the road as the station, could not be done due to the council not being able to compulsorily purchase land for a third party - Network Rail.

The inquest also heard from Sarah Block, a childminder from Leiston, about the terrifying moment that she hit the elderly couple.

Fighting back tears throughout her evidence Miss Block, who had only passed her driving test in October 2005, said: “As I came to the crossing they were just literally there in front of me. As soon as I saw them I braked but it was on the impact.”

Pc Jeff Cribb, the senior collision investigation officer on the case, told of how she had passed a breathalyser test at the scene, was going under the 40mph speed limit at the time of the accident and that an investigation into her mobile phone had found there had been no activity while she was driving.

Do you have concerns about the Darsham crossing? What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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