Jury hears of road conditions on day of crash which killed two people

James Adamson and Kelly Bulmer
James Adamson and Kelly Bulmer
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PROSECUTORS have argued that a young man, who is accused of causing the deaths of his girlfriend and friend in a car accident, was not driving in a way expected of a careful and confident driver.

Aaron Simpson, 19, of King’s Road, Oakham, appeared at Leicester Crown Court today (Tuesday), charged with two counts of causing death by careless driving. He denies the charges.

The jury heard that Simpson was driving a blue Ford Fiesta along the A6003 at about 5.35pm on August 25, 2010, when the vehicle spun under the Sounding Bridge at Manton and hit a white Ford Transit van side-on.

His passengers Kelly Bulmer, 17, and James Adamson, 23, were killed instantly when the passenger side of the car hit the van.

The court was told that a car travelling in the same direction as the Fiesta had spun off the road in the same place only 15 minutes before the crash but had veered to the left hand side of the road, hitting the verge.

The weather on the day was described in court as wet with some heavy downpours that are typical of a day in August.

Simpson had passed his driving test in April 2010 but had only started driving the Fiesta a month before the crash.

Kevin Barry, prosecuting, said Simpson accepts that he lost control of the car on the bend near the Sounding Bridge, but the issue is how.

Mr Barry said: "The issue here is about due care and attention. Did the way he drive fall below what would be expected of a careful and confident driver?"

Mr Barry said that due to the head injuries Simpson sustained, he cannot remember the crash. He has since fully recovered.

The driver of the white van, Charles Stimson, of Oakham, and the driver of another vehicle, who were both travelling towards Oakham at the time said that it was raining and the road was wet at the time of the accident.

Mr Stimson gave evidence at the court today, saying he knew the road very well and drove it every day.

He said: “I noticed that a car was in the ditch on the right hand side of the road and it appeared to have spun.

“I was suddenly aware of a small car losing control and coming over onto my side of the carriageway. It very quickly impacted into the front of my van.

“I was in a state of shock.”

Police officers who are experts in accidents attended the scene and said both vehicles involved in the crash were driving under the speed limit of 50mph.

At the time they arrived at the scene at 7.08pm they said the road surface was wet but in a good condition because the water was draining from the road.

Examinations of both the car and the van showed that they were in full working condition at the time of the accident.

But Stuart Lody, defending, said there was not enough evidence to suggest the road surface was in a good condition and that skid tests carried out were not fair to the time of the accident.

PC Michael Hinton, who investigated the crash, gave evidence for the prosecution today.

He said: “I arrived one hour and 33 minutes after the crash. At the time of arrival the roads were wet but they were well drained and there was no standing water.

“It was still light and visibility was good.”

In cross-examination Mr Lody quoted two police officers who arrived at the scene at least 40 minutes before PC Hinton and described the road as “wet with some standing water” and “slippery”.

He said: “Why did you completely ignore the statements of two police officers when you came to your conclusions about the conditions on the road?”

PC Hinton said the statements from the police officers were based on opinion, not fact.

PC Hinton also said he carried out extensive skid testing on the same stretch of road two weeks after the accident. He tried to recreate the road condition at the time and used water provided by Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service and a Ford Focus car to break heavily on the corner to test the road surface.

The test could not be carried out immediately after the crash due to petrol and oil that was spilled on the road, contaminating it.

In December 2010, he again tested a Ford Fiesta similar to that driven by Simpson on a wet test-track at Melton Airfield and came to the conclusion that the crash was not the fault of the car or the road.

PC Hinton said: “A viable explanation for the crash could be ‘lift off over-steer’.”

He explained that this happens on a corner when the foot is taken off the accelerator causing the vehicle to lose grip on the road and the vehicle is steered too harshly in one direction causing it to spin.

But Mr Lody argued that the tests were carried out too long after the initial crash. He also argued that using a Ford Focus was not conclusive because it is a different type of vehicle to the Fiesta.

In his cross examination, Mr Lody told the jury that there had been 18 accidents on that stretch of road which resulted in serious injury and one death in the ten years prior to August 25, 2010.

He also stated that a number of smaller crashes had also happened on the same corner but were not recorded as serious.

At the time of the crash Rutland County Council was in the process of arranging for a skid-proof surface to the applied to the corner where the incident happened.

Mr Lody asked PC Hinton whether he would, in his professional opinion, consider the corner to be an accident hotspot. PC Hinton said he did not.

The cross examination will continue tomorrow (Wednesday) when the defence will also present evidence.