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Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey under fire over Orwell Bridge death tweet

PUBLISHED: 18:04 22 October 2017 | UPDATED: 12:29 23 October 2017

Therese Coffey (Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal). Picture: House of Commons

Therese Coffey (Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal). Picture: House of Commons

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MP Therese Coffey has refused to apologise after questioning why police kept Orwell Bridge closed for eight hours following a fatal accident.

Investigations by police closed the bridge on Friday after van driver Mick Rayner, from Essex, was struck by an agricultural vehicle and killed.

After the incident the Suffolk Coastal MP tweeted: “Tragic loss of life on A14/Orwell Bridge yesterday but Suffolk Police need to justify why road entirely closed for so many hours.”

But social media users were quick to condemn the comment. One, called H, said: “If it were our loved one killed or involved we would want everything logged ... someone died!”

Tom Bull, on Twitter, added: “Disgusting that you would question the police who are just doing a job. Officers have to tell the family. Maybe go work a shift with them and see what frontline policing is really like?”

Traffic in Ipswich ground to halt after the fatal crash on the Orwell Bridge on Friday morning. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNTraffic in Ipswich ground to halt after the fatal crash on the Orwell Bridge on Friday morning. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Dr Coffey has refused to back down but did say she had “prayed for the victim”.

“I do really feel for the family of Mr Rayner but there is an obligation on the police to cooperate with the Highways Agency about what they do about extensive closure of roads. This is not the first time I have challenged whether such an extensive time for the road to be closed is necessary.

“My query is, why did it take eight hours? I stand by what I wrote. I was reacting to comments. I don’t see the grounds to apologise for the tweet.

“I can understand why they are upset at the death for Mr Rayner, I prayed for him in church this morning.

Mick Rayner, who died in Friday's accident on the Orwell Bridge. Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY/SUFFOLK CONSTABULARYMick Rayner, who died in Friday's accident on the Orwell Bridge. Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY/SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

“I sent the tweet after the newspaper had written a story about politicians calling for an investigation into a northern by-pass. That’s the reason I did it.”

But Ipswich MP Sandy Martin stood by the police: “I fully support the actions of the police in this tragic incident and I am quite certain that they did everything they could to make sure the incident was dealt with properly.”

A Suffolk police spokeswoman said: “Police investigation of serious and fatal collisions needs to be carried out in a thorough manner, as initially the scene has to be protected, evidence gathered and witnesses spoken to.

“Enquiries can take a number of hours to complete, and our duty of care to road users means that roads cannot be reopened until the highway is clear of any hazard that may affect use of the road.

We work in conjunction with our partners to follow the ‘CLEAR’ principle, namely clearing trunk roads within four hours where possible, however in certain circumstances, this is not achievable. We apologise to those people who are inconvenienced by road closures, however we work hard to provide answers for collision victims and their families.”

One senior government source said the tweet showed a “lack of judgement”.

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