Tragic death of former Eastbourne Mayor was result of ‘human error’

Beryl Healy SUS-150506-162923001 SUS-150209-165743001
Beryl Healy SUS-150506-162923001 SUS-150209-165743001

Former Eastbourne Mayor Beryl Healy was run over by her own car on the driveway outside her home after failing to apply the handbrake when parking, an inquest has heard.

Mrs Healy, a 79-year-old retired nurse, died at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, in Brighton, following the incident outside her home on Pococks Road, Eastbourne on June 4, 2015. A post mortem examination gave her cause of death as multiple injures due to a road traffic incident.

An inquest into her death, held at Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, October 22, heard how a taxi driver parked nearby ran to help after hearing a scream.

Anthony Fox told the court, “I was reading the newspaper with the window down when I heard a scream. I looked up and saw the car coming backwards down the drive. The lady was directly behind it. She started to go under the car. The back wheels went over her. When the car came to a standstill, she was under it, on the driver’s side.

“By now, I had run over to the car. I tried lifting it by myself, which was obviously impossible. I shouted out to some builders who were working on the opposite side of the road. I was on the phone to the emergency services at the time and between us, we lifted the car onto pallets and released the pressure off her. She was conscious and talking.”

David Twine, a roof tiler who responded to Mr Fox’s call for help, told the court how after helping lift the car off Mrs Healy, he looked inside the car and saw the handbrake wasn’t on. He reached inside the vehicle and pulled it up into an ‘on’ position.

PC Iain Lumbard, of the forensic collision investigation unit, inspected Mrs Healy’s Renault Modus after the incident. It was an automatic car that she would have been ‘very familiar with’ having owned it since May 2013, and one with no apparent defects.

He found the gear in position ‘drive’ and later tests confirmed the car would roll down the driveway if left in ‘drive’ with the handbrake down and engine off.

PC Lumbard told the court the driveway had a shallow gradient near the house but got steeper as it neared the road, meaning the car’s momentum and speed would have increased as it rolled toward the road.

Coroner Alan Craze recorded a conclusion of road traffic accident, adding, “We’re all human beings and human beings make errors.”

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