Driver died after pulling out in front of oncoming HGV at ‘difficult’ A17 junction

A17/B1397 junction.
A17/B1397 junction.

A motorist died after failing to give way at a ‘difficult’ junction on the A17 at Sutterton, an inquest has been told.

Leonard Elsom was pronounced dead at the scene after his red Hyundai Amica vehicle collided with a Volvo HGV on May 6.

An inquest at Stamford Town Hall on Wednesday was told the impact resulted in Mr Elsom’s car ‘flying’ across the central reservation and into the path of a Mercedes Viano.

Those gathered heard that Mr Elsom, 79, of Spilsby Road, Boston, was more than double the drink-drive limit at the time of the crash.

The inquest was told he had been driving north east along Spalding Road B1397 in Sutterton, when he reached the Sutterton crossroads at about 5.10pm, the inquest was told. At the junction Mr Elsom, a retired agricultural worker, did not appear to come to a full stop and pulled out in front of an oncoming HGV, which was driving just over the speed limit at 50mph.

The driver of the HGV, Alan Myers, who regularly drives along the A17, told the inquest: “I was driving along the A17 towards Newark at around 52mph. As I approached the junction the red Hyundai came into view and was moving slowly towards the give-way line. Suddenly it pulled out into the road straight into my path. I hit the brakes, but there was no time to reduce my speed.”

Mr Myers hit the Hyundai, causing it to, as he described it, ‘fly’ across the central reservation and onto the other side of the road, colliding with the Mercedes Viano.

Deborah Rackham had been driving behind Mr Elsom before he reached the junction. She explained how she saw the him brake just before the junction but then suddenly pull out in front of the HGV.

“I remember thinking the lorry had no chance, he was unable to avoid him,” she said in a statement read out.

Pc Mark Brown, the forensic collision investigator, explained how the impact with the HGV lifted the car up into the air, throwing it across the central reservation.

The driver of the Volvo HGV and the driver of the Mercedes Viano, including its two young passengers suffered only minor injuries.

Carole Benge, the driver of the Viano, approached the junction just before the incident and was indicating to turn right. She told the inquest she did not see either the lorry or the car and the first she knew of what happened was when she heard the sound of the collision. She said the next thing she knew was the Hyundai impacting on the front of the vehicle she was driving.

“I was 99 per cent sure that whoever was in the car would be dead,” she said. “The car was severely damaged.”

The post-mortem examination found that Mr Elsom had alcohol in his system at the time of the collision. The reading was 191 milligrammes of alcohol in 100ml of blood - more than twice the legal limit of 80 milligrammes. It gave the medical cause of death as multiple traumatic injuries and alcohol intoxication.

Pc Brown told the inquest there were no defects on any of the vehicles involved.

The inquest was told that Mr Elsom had also been suffering from depression following the death of his wife and was being treated with counselling and anti-depressant drugs, although the post-mortem examination found no evidence of drugs in his system.

Senior coroner Robert Forrest considered whether Mr Elsom’s depression played a part in his death but ultimately recorded a verdict of accidental death.

He said: “Mr Elsom had drunk a sufficient amount of alcohol and was unable to make an appropriate judgement at the difficult junction. He drove his vehicle without intention into the path of the HGV and was killed instantly.”

The coroner added that he will be compiling a report to be sent to the highways authority and the Department for Transport, for them to consider taking action on this particular junction, which has seen six collisions, including one other fatal accident in the last five years.