Husband and wife killed after crashing into police van as daughter seriously injured

A husband who died alongside his wife in a head-on collision with a police van may have momentarily fallen asleep before the crash, an inquest has heard. John Jackson, 60, had driven from Bwlchgwyn, north Wales, to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire with his daughter Ffion to pick up his wife Nerys, 57, who had been working abroad, and the family were returning home when the crash happened on December 9 last year.

An inquest heard on Wednesday that Mr Jackson’s Skoda Octavia failed to negotiate a bend in the road on the A458 in Morville Heath, Shropshire, at around 10.15am and collided with an oncoming West Mercia Police Ford Transit crime scene investigation van being driven by Bethan Davis.

Ms Davis, who attended the inquest at Shropshire Coroners Court in a wheelchair, and the couple’s daughter were seriously injured in the collision, while Mr and Mrs Jackson died at the scene.

Reading a statement by Ffion Jackson, senior coroner John Ellery said Mr Jackson had been “pottering” about the family home tidying up all day ahead of Mrs Jackson’s arrival back home from the Ascension Islands.

She said she believed he was still awake when she went to bed at around midnight, before he woke her up to start the car journey to Oxfordshire at around 4am.

Her statement said she spent much of the return journey with headphones on, drifting in and out of sleep, while Mrs Jackson also mentioned getting some sleep in the back seat. She remembered driving through Stourbridge, but then her next memory was waking up “uncomfortable and confused” after the collision.

She added that her father had said he was “fine to carry on” when they had earlier stopped at Hopwood Park Services on the M42 to get a coffee and stretch his legs, and that he “wouldn’t have carried on if he didn’t feel safe to do so”.

Ronald Ball, who had been driving behind Mr Jackson on the A458 before the crash, said he saw the Skoda “straying across the central line” and travelling below the 60mph speed limit, and initially thought the driver may have been drunk, so he decided to overtake him to put some distance between them.

Why we cover inquests – and why it’s so important that we do

As painful as these proceedings are for those who have lost a loved one the lessons that can be learned from inquests can go a long way to saving others’ lives.

The press has a legal right to attend inquests and has a responsibility to report on them as part of their duty to uphold the principle of open justice.

It’s a journalist’s duty to make sure the public understands the reasons why someone has died and to make sure their deaths are not kept secret. An inquest report can also clear up any rumours or suspicion surrounding a person’s death.

But, most importantly of all, an inquest report can draw attention to circumstances which may stop further deaths from happening.

Should journalists shy away from attending inquests then an entire arm of the judicial system is not held to account.

Inquests can often prompt a wider discussion on serious issues, the most recent of these being mental health and suicide.

Editors actively ask and encourage reporters to speak to the family and friends of a person who is the subject of an inquest. Their contributions help us create a clearer picture of the person who died and also provides the opportunity to pay tribute to their loved one.

Often families do not wish to speak to the press and of course that decision has to be respected. However, as has been seen by many powerful media campaigns, the input of a person’s family and friends can make all the difference in helping to save others.

Without the attendance of the press at inquests questions will remain unanswered and lives will be lost.

Holly Wainwright, who was driving behind Mr Jackson’s car at the time of the collision, said he had “drifted” across the white lines on to the other side of the road as they travelled towards a left-hand bend in the road, narrowly missing a vehicle that swerved out of the way, before the Skoda hit the police van.

Detective Sergeant Julie Lyman, of West Midlands Police, who investigated the collision as the vehicle involved a West Mercia Police van, said she believed Mr Jackson may have been distracted or had had a “micro-sleep” after a long drive and that the collision was “inevitable”.

Mr Ellery said Mr Jackson had not had any drugs or alcohol and had not been operating his phone before the crash. The cause of death of husband and wife was multiple traumatic injuries.

Mr Ellery said: “The circumstances seem clear that Mr Jackson, while driving towards home, drifted into the path of the police vehicle. Ms Davis could not have avoided the collision.”

“As to why Mr Jackson drifted across, I have to consider the evidence to answer that, and while there is no direct evidence, it seems most likely that Mr Jackson has fallen asleep.” The coroner recorded that Mr and Mrs Jackson died as a result of a road traffic collision. For the latest Welsh news delivered to your inbox sign up to our newsletter[3]


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