Padiham bypass double death tragedy: inquest

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A DEVOTED couple died after being involved in a traffic accident on their 65th wedding anniversary.

Mr Stewart Graham and wife Honora, both 85, had been returning from a celebration lunch in Great Harwood to their home in Wheatley Close, Fence, when their Vauxhall Astra collided with another car on the Padiham by-pass on May 4th.

The loving couple, who worshipped at St Philip’s Church, Padiham, were keen fans of Accrington Cricket Club and enjoyed meals out together.

Mrs Graham died in the Royal Blackburn Hospital two hours after the accident and Mr Graham died in the same hospital eight days later.

An inquest into their deaths, held at Burnley Coroner’s Court, heard evidence from Mrs Karen Derbyshire who was driving the other car involved in the collision.

She was driving to a meeting in Clitheroe with passenger Anthony Doggett around 1-30 p.m.

Mrs Derbyshire, also driving a Vauxhall Astra, said: “I was near the Bay Horse pub when I saw the other car move from its carriageway and head towards me.

“It made an unpredictable manoeuvre and appeared to swerve or change direction. As it got nearer it seemed as though the driver slumped to his left or was trying to support his passenger. I took my foot off the accelerator and tried to mount the kerb to avoid the car.”

The inquest heard the two cars collided partially head-on and Mrs Derbyshire was cut out of her car by firefighters before being treated for whiplash.

Her passenger, Mr Doggett, told the inquest the Grahams’ car was three to four car lengths ahead when it began to swerve. He did not notice anything else.

Joanne Whitehead was travelling in her car behind the Grahams towards Nelson at the time of the accident.

She said: “It was as if the driver had suffered a blackout or was distracted.”

Pathologist Dr Walid Salman, who conducted the post-mortem examinations, said Mrs Graham had suffered several broken ribs and her perforated liver had caused internal bleeding. He could not find any underlying natural disease or evidence of a stroke or heart attack. He gave the cause of death as multiple injuries.

Regarding Mr Graham, Dr Salman said: “Mr Graham also suffered broken ribs. However, he also suffered a broken neck. There was some evidence of coronary heart disease in Mr Graham but, again, no suggestion he had suffered a heart attack. The cause of death was bronchial pneumonia due to multiple injuries.”

Police accident investigator PC David Horsfield said weather and road conditions were fine at the time of the collision and there were no defects to either car.

He said at the time of the collision the Grahams’ Astra was completely on the opposite carriageway and said Mrs Derbyshire could do nothing to avoid it. He said the speed at impact would have been around 30mph.

Recording a narrative verdict, East Lancashire Coroner Mr Richard Taylor said: “Mr and Mrs Graham died as a result of their car losing control and heading into the path of an oncoming vehicle.