Coroner hears of Upwaltham A285 tragedy

The Honda Civic after the crash. Picture by Eddie Mitchell
The Honda Civic after the crash. Picture by Eddie Mitchell

A NIGHT out at the festival theatre ended in tragedy as two people died on the country’s most dangerous road, an inquest has heard.

Janice Taylor, 74, and Hilary Moock, 82, were both passengers in a Volkswagen Golf driving north along the A285 at Upwaltham when it was struck by a Honda Civic, driven by David Lewis – a chef at the The Leconfield restaurant in Petworth who was returning home.

Mrs Taylor and Mrs Moock both died at the scene.

Mrs Taylor’s husband Roderick said his wife had a keen interest in the theatre and ‘helped friends and family get the most out of life’.

“Many people in the whole community relied on her for support and encouragement,” he said in a statement read out at Edes House, in Chichester, last Tuesday (December 9).

The accident happened around 10.45pm on Saturday, September 28, 2013, as the group was returning home from watching a play at the Chichester Festival Theatre.

The car in which Mrs Taylor was travelling was being driven by Mrs Moock’s husband Karsten, 86.

He gave evidence at the inquest, describing the A285 as ‘dangerous’ and spoke of how he tried to turn right across the southbound carriageway into the narrow entrance to Mr and Mrs Taylor’s second home.

“Even in daylight you can’t see very far ahead because there’s the top of the hill and you’re aware that anybody who should come up that at any speed at all, you would be a sitting duck,” he said.

He said he was not familiar with the road as he and his wife had travelled down from London, staying at Mr and Mrs Taylor’s second home.

The entrance to the cottage was opposite the junction to Selhurstpark Road.

Senior coroner for West Sussex Penelope Schofield was told by witnesses the road was dangerous and she mentioned it was recently labelled ‘the most dangerous road in Britain’.

David Lewis, 29, had been driving home from a shift at The Leconfield, along with his co-worker and housemate Lucian Selaru when they came over the brow of the hill and saw ‘strange lights’ as Mr Moock attempted to turn across the carriageway.

“I did everything I possibly could,” he told Ms Schofield.

Police estimate there was 90m of visibility from the point of spotting the car to where the crash happened, with Mr Lewis travelling at close to the national speed limit of 60mph, meaning he had seconds to react.

The inquest heard before leaving the Leconfield Mr Lewis drank a pint and a half of lager. He was breathalysed at the scene and found to have 21 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35.

A fourth person, Peta Bowen was in Mr Moock’s car and gave evidence at the inquest. She was sat on the right-hand back seat of the car, meaning she and Mr Moock were sheltered from the impact. The inquest concludes today (December 17).