Three work colleagues killed when driver lost control in freezing conditions, inquest hears
Three work colleagues in the same car were killed when the driver lost control in freezing conditions with snow and slush on the road.
The Renault Clio “fishtailed” after a gentle bend before crossing into the opposite carriageway and colliding with a Scania truck, whose driver had tried to take avoiding action.
The tragedy on the A15 at Baston on February 27 this year was one of 26 accidents reported to Lincolnshire Police within six hours, with conditions described as “treacherous”.
Driver Ewelina Gacka, 40, and rear-seat passengers Joanna Masternak, 41, and Malgorzoda Kulik, 44, – all from Peterborough - died at the scene near the King Street junction and Waterside Garden Centre. It happened in the dark at about 6.15am - just six minutes after they had headed home following a night shift at Bourne Textile Services in Cherry Holt Road.
The one person in the car to survive – front-seat passenger Bartlomiej Janzura – told an inquest at Boston Coroner’s Court today (Thursday) that he had fallen asleep but woke shortly before the car went out of control.
The Polish national – speaking through an interpreter – said: “The back of the car went to the left side then Ewelina corrected the position before the back of the car went to the right side.”
He added that the car then rotated through 180 degrees before colliding with the lorry.
The truck driver – John Mitchell, managing director of Wellingborough firm JA Mitchell Haulage – told the inquest that there was a couple of inches of snow and his opinion was that the road had not been gritted.
He first saw the car as it came round a bend in front of him.
“I thought it was coming broadside on, on my side of the road. It was starting to slide,” said Mr Mitchell. “I thought ‘what am I going to do here? I’m going to run into them’. So I swerved across to the other side of the road.”
His vehicle was “half and half” across to the southbound carriageway when the rear of the car collided with the front nearside of his cab.
Forensic collisions investigator PC Sarah Capes told the hearing that neither of the passengers in the back of the car were wearing seatbelts but, in her opinion, it “wouldn’t have made any difference”.
Whilst she could not rule out that Miss Gacka had fallen asleep at the wheel, PC Capes’ conclusion was: “She was likely to have lost control due to a lack of available grip due to snow and slush on the road surface.”
The lorry had been travelling at 38mph and whilst it had been impossible to establish the car’s speed, there was no evidence to suggest it was excessive.
Van driver Jordan Donnelly had earlier witnessed the Clio overtaking the lead car in a line of fairly-slow moving traffic. He told the inquest it wasn’t done at speed or in a “frustrated” manner.
“It wasn’t a dangerous overtake – the road ahead was clear,” he said. “However, in my opinion, the road conditions didn’t suit it.”
Assistant coroner Murray Spittal recorded a conclusion of road traffic accident for the deaths of Miss Gacka, of Swan Gardens; Miss Masternak, of Summerby Garth; and Miss Kulik, of Grayton Court.