Driver who caused death of Bristol bus passenger may never be traced
A CAR driver who caused the death of a bus passenger may never be identified.
It is nearly nine months since the incident which saw great-grandmother Barbara McCracken thrown forward, breaking her neck when a car swerved in front of the bus she was travelling on, and the identity of the driver is still unknown.
Repeated appeals were made by the police for information after the incident in Southmead Road, Filton, at 11.45am on May 16 last year.
An inquest held at Flax Bourton Coroner’s Court today heard that 88-year-old Mrs McCracken was a “sprightly and independent woman”, with no underlying health conditions that would have contributed to her death.
The pensioner, who lived in North View, Stoke Gifford, had gone to visit her sister Pat, who had recently undergone a hip replacement in Southmead.
She boarded the number 18 bus at 11.30am at Southmead Hospital and was one of two passengers onboard when the incident happened.
Deputy coroner Gail Elliman read a statement from bus driver Raymond Payne.
He said he was driving up Southmead Road in Filton towards its junction with Golf Course Lane, by the Airbus factory. He said that as he approached this junction the traffic lights in front of him were on a “steady green”.
Before he had time to ease his foot back onto the accelerator Mr Payne said he “suddenly noticed” a car coming into his path.
“I was in the left hand lane and it was crossing across the right hand lane into my path,” he said.
“I realised this vehicle was going to cross my path, so I applied hard pressure on the brakes for an emergency stop.”
Mr Payne said the car, which was bronze in colour, also came to a stop and the driver – a white woman, with shoulder length dark blonde hair who looked to be in her 30s – looked at him with a shocked expression.
He said he stared back in shock and the woman mouthed something before driving off down Golf Course Lane.
Mr Payne said he turned around to ask the two passengers if they were OK, and found Mrs McCracken lying on the floor of the bus, bleeding from a head injury.
The inquest heard that the other passenger on the bus, a young woman called Briony Daniels, was helping Mrs McCracken and called an ambulance while Mr Payne carried out CPR.
Mrs McCracken, a retired civil servant who was a grandmother to three and great grandmother to one, was taken to Frenchay Hospital, where she died two days later with her family by her side.
She had broken her neck and a post-mortem examination revealed the medical cause of death was a complete tear of the spinal cord called a spinal cord transection.
Ms Daniels gave a statement to police also saying that the traffic light had been green when the bus passed through.
She also said she had seen the car driver who “seemed angry” and was “probably swearing” at the bus driver.
Ms Daniels said that as the bus braked she grabbed hold of the head rest in front of her which stopped her being propelled forward.
She said she saw Mrs McCracken try to grab the head rest in front of her - but she had missed and was thrown forwards onto the floor.
The police report confirmed that there was nothing wrong with the bus that would have caused or contributed to the incident.
PC Richard Hignett, accident investigator for Avon and Somerset Police, who wrote the report, said: “This is a highly unusual case.
“We have a case that could be handed to the CPS but have not been able to locate the offender.
“The driver may well be unaware that the near-miss has resulted in such tragedy.”
Ms Elliman concluded that Mrs McCracken died of the injuries she sustained in the incident and recorded a verdict of accidental death.
Mrs McCracken’s son Brian, 64, and his wife Christine, 63, who live in Clevedon, attended the inquest.
Mr McCracken said: “The verdict was what we expected – we knew she died as a result of the incident.
“We are obviously unhappy that the driver of the car never came forward.
“We realise that she may not be aware of what she has done and the tragedy she caused.
“The police have been superb and have worked hard in trying to find her, but with no luck.
“It’s just a real tragedy. She was such a lively, active woman who still had some years of life ahead of her.
“Ten days after the incident her grandson got married and she missed the birth of her second great-grandson, which was really sad.
“She may have been 88 but she was fit as a fiddle and lived in a bungalow on her own.
“What happened was such a real shock.”
A First Bus spokeswoman said: “We were deeply saddened to learn that Mrs McCracken died as a result of the incident that occurred on May 16, 2012. This was a terrible and tragic event and our thoughts remain with her family and friends as they deal with their loss.”