COLNE: Speed and road spill caused deaths of three young friends in car smash

A CORONER has concluded that a combination of vehicle speed and hydraulic fluid on the road caused the deaths of three Colne friends.

Friday, 26th November 2010, 9:05 am

East Lancashire Coroner Mr Richard Taylor recorded a narrative verdict on the final day of the inquest at Burnley Town Hall into the deaths of Jessica Foxley (21), her boyfriend Tom Petty (25) and their friend Philip Wright (25).

The trio were coming back from a wedding at 11 p.m. on July 25th last year when the blue Ford Focus in which they were travelling skidded out of control before hitting a wall and overturning in Skipton Old Road.

The inquest heard that, earlier on the day of the accident, hydraulic fluid had leaked from a forage harvester on to the road. Three men who worked for C. & G.A. Guy Contractors Ltd, owners of the harvester, spread sand on the affected area of the road to soak up the fluid. This was deemed sufficient by police at the time, although one witness at the inquest said signs should have been put up to warn motorists and described the road as “an accident waiting to happen”.

Sgt David Horsfield, from Lancashire Constabulary’s Collision Investigation Unit, said he believed the fluid on the road was, on “the balance of probability”, not a contributory factor to the accident. He said he had tested a car at 60 m.p.h. on the same stretch of road after the accident and had not lost grip.

He went on to say the car Jessica, Tom and Philip were in was estimated to be travelling at a speed over the national speed limit.

After the inquest, the Foxley family paid tribute to “bright and beautiful” Jessica and thanked the coroner for listening to all the evidence presented.

However, the families of the three involved in the crash also urged for a change in the way spillages on roads are handled.

Mr Paul Foxley, Jessica’s father, said: “Earlier on the day of the accident there had been an oil spillage. We understand the police inspected the road, declared it safe and decided not to contact the council or any other agency to clear up the mile-long spillage.

“Following the crash, officers from the same police force attended the scene to investigate and almost immediately discounted the possibility the oil spillage could have been a contributory cause.

“It is clear to us there is a need for fundamental changes in procedures.”

Miss Vicky Wright, sister of Philip Wright, hoped changes would be made to spillage procedure so other families would not have to go through what they have had to go through.

Coroner Mr Taylor has said he will write a letter to the chief constable of Lancashire outlining changes he thinks need to be made in dealing with hazardous spillages.