Lorry driver did not see road death victim Lorraine Burrows, coroner rules
A lorry driver did not see a 48-year-old woman who died after she was struck by a 26-tonne lorry while crossing a road in Belfast city centre, a coroner found yesterday.
Lorraine Burrows lived with her husband, Jonathan (50), at their home in Edenderry Village in Belfast.
A recruitment consultant for Keenan Health Care on Adelaide Street, she had been walking to work on the morning of November 21, 2017, during rush hour at around 8am when the incident happened on the junction between Wellwood Street and Great Victoria Street.
The inquest, conducted by Coroner Joe McCrisken, heard that Mrs Burrows died after a Dale Farm heavy goods vehicle (HGV) struck the woman, dragging her under the lorry before she "tumbled for a short distance".
Despite attempts by passers-by to perform CPR, the Coroner stated that the laceration of the brain and spinal cord of the woman "caused immediate unconsciousness and a very rapid death".
She was transferred to Royal Victoria Hospital, where she passed away at 8.27am.
The hearing, which was delayed by over an hour due to the non-appearance of two eye-witnesses, heard from several people, including Mr Widdowson, the driver of the HGV lorry who had delivered goods for the dairy company for 13 years.
Questioned on the statement he gave to police at the scene of the incident, Mr Widdowson said he "did not see" the woman crossing the road as he turned his lorry into the street.
He said: "As I turned into the street, I heard a thud. First I saw was something lying on the road."
The court heard that the man stopped the lorry around "30 or 40 metres" further up the street, before pulling in, where he remained at the scene and spoke to police.
The court also heard from Gavin Dunn, a road traffic collision investigator from Forensic Science Northern Ireland.
Mr Dunn and his team examined CCTV footage of the incident, alongside recreating the view from inside the lorry cabin and utilising tachograph data.
On the question of whether Mr Widdowson could have seen Mrs Burrows as he turned left from Great Victoria Street into Wellwood Street, Mr Dunn suggested that he was "not able to say if he could have seen her".
He went on to suggest that the driver may not have been able to see her, "even if he had been solely focused on looking out that passenger window".
The tachograph in the lorry showed it was travelling at 9mph when it struck Mrs Burrows.
The inquest finally heard from widower Jonathan Burrows. He described his wife as "so cautious" when it came to her daily commute into work, saying that for her not to double check a road before crossing was "so out of character".
He explained that normally his wife "would have parked her car at Queen's and walked" into work "for a bit of exercise". However, as a result of an ankle injury, had started getting the bus to Great Victoria Street before walking the short distance to Adelaide Street.
Mr Burrows also addressed the explanation that his wife may not have heard the lorry as a result of a hearing aid she wore. Characterising her as having "better hearing than most in this courtroom", he added that "Lorraine was so cautious... it just made no sense to me that she just walked out before checking".
Married for 31 years, Mr Burrows reminisced about their wedding in California, where the "spontaneous" couple decided on a whim as teenagers to get married.
Delivering his preliminary verdict, Coroner Joe McCrisken summarised that it was "probable she could and should have heard the lorry".
He added that he was both "satisfied the lorry was being driven at a reasonable speed" and "satisfied Mr Widdowson didn't see Mrs Burrows that day".
He concluded by saying that "no one is ever going to know for sure" what happened on the day.