Woman injured by runaway taxi

AN INVESTIGATION is under way today after a runaway taxi rolled down a hill, smashed into a pensioner and pinned her against a wall, leaving her seriously injured.

AN INVESTIGATION is under way today after a runaway taxi rolled down a hill, smashed into a pensioner and pinned her against a wall, leaving her seriously injured.

Today investigators were examining the car's handbrake system - following concern nationally that some Vauxhall vehicles could be prone to faults with their handbrakes.

Shocked cab driver Ron Grant was left distraught as he was unable to reach his car and could only watch as it crashed into the 63-year-old woman who was walking on the pavement at the top of Bent Hill, Felixstowe.

Emergency services sent two ambulances and the air ambulance to the drama yesterday afternoon.

The woman - who has not been named - was sandwiched between the green Vauxhall Vectra Elite and a brick wall, and is understood to have suffered suspected fractured legs and a broken ankle.

She was taken to Ipswich Hospital.

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Mr Grant, 66, of Ipswich, a taxi driver for 23 years, had parked his vehicle outside Coastal Cars in Hamilton Road while he picked up details of his work shifts for next week.

He said: “I switched off the car, pulled on my handbrake, put on my hazard lights and locked the car - that's what I always do, it's my habit.

“I came into the office and a few moments later someone said, 'Hey, Ronnie, your car is disappearing'. I couldn't believe what was happening. No-one could have got in it and driven it.

“I ran outside and chased after it, though I don't know what I thought I was going to do. I tripped and fell and all I could so was sit there and watch as it hit the woman. It's awful. She couldn't get out of the way. I feel dreadful.”

Witnesses said the woman let out a massive scream” as the car hit her.

Matthew Egelton, 17, of Devon Road, Felixstowe, said: “She was pinned against the wall and one leg appeared to be caught by the lamp-post and the other against the kerb.”

Nick Papworth, 17, of Marsh Lane, Old Felixstowe, said the taxi driver was “absolutely distraught”.

He said: “After the car stopped, he just sat on the path and looked awful. There was nothing he could do to stop it, especially as it was on a hill.”

Mr Grant had only bought the car a week ago and it had undergone the Hackney Carriage licence inspection to make sure it was safe and roadworthy.

Taxi company owner Mike Stokell, whose firm acts as agents for the self-employed drivers, said: “Ron is one of our most experienced drivers. His car was checked only a week ago and the tests vehicles have to undergo are very strict indeed because they are carrying passengers.”

A spokesman for Vauxhall said: “Vauxhall Motors is aware of a limited number of allegations of unsecured Vectra and Signum vehicles. These allegations relate to the current Vectra and its sister vehicle the Signum, produced from 2002 to date.

“We believe that the handbrake system used in the Vectra and Signum is safe, however, we take all matters relating to the safety of Vauxhall products seriously.

“Safety remains our highest priority. Our engineers have therefore conducted rigorous reviews of several vehicles identified directly to Vauxhall. In addition, we have removed handbrakes from customer vehicles with alleged problems and put these mechanisms through an extensive test programme in an attempt to replicate the issue. To date, “the tests have failed to identify fault with these handbrake mechanisms.

“However, Vauxhall is continuing to diligently investigate a number of theories.

“In addition, we have also actioned, in co-operation with VOSA, a consumer communication to remind Vectra and Signum customers of the correct operating procedure for the handbrake. This communication included an advice label which is affixed to the sun visor. This 'Advice when parking,' is referenced in the owner's manual and a reminder of the recommendation printed in the official Highway Code.

Vectra and Signum owners who have concerns about their car should call Vauxhall Customer Service on 0845 090 2044 or via email at vauxhall.customerassistance@uk.gm.com.