A WOMAN was on her way to buy birthday cards when she was struck by a lorry on a busy high street.
Bolton Coroners Court heard that Norah Fairhurst was living in Golborne but was born in Ashton-in-Makerfield and often returned to the town to go shopping.
The problem with HGVs is their height and flat front which causes a considerable blind spot. It is very difficult for a driver to notice someone if they are directly in front of themPC David Woods
She was crossing Gerard Street on August 8 at 2.47pm when she was struck by the articulated lorry. Despite efforts to save her, she died as a result of her injuries.
The driver of the Volvo lorry, Nicholas Grundy, told the court that he had not been to the area before but had driven through the town to make a delivery and was returning along Gerard Street when the accident happened.
He said: “I was approaching a pedestrian crossing when the lights changed to red and I stopped.
“When the lights changed again I checked all my mirrors and began to move forward. Some pedestrians started shouting “stop” and a car coming in the opposite direction honked its horn.
“I thought something might have fallen off the lorry so I stopped and got out and that was the first I knew I had hit something.”
He told the court that his lorry did not have a proximity mirror which would have allowed him to see directly in front of the cab as the HGV had been made before 2008 when regulations were introduced to ensure all new lorries had them.
PC David Woods, a forensic collision reconstruction officer with GMP’s serious collision investigation unit, said that it would not necessarily have prevented the accident had Mr Grundy’s cab been fitted with a proximity mirror.
He said: “The problem with HGVs is their height and flat front which causes a considerable blind spot. It is very difficult for a driver to notice someone if they are directly in front of them.
“The mirror would have to be fitted correctly, the pedestrian would have to be in view of the mirror and the driver would have to look in that mirror at that time. There is a lot for drivers to do.”
But coroner Rachel Griffin asked Mr Woods if he thought all HGVs having these mirrors could reduce or potentially prevent future deaths to which he replied: “It could, yes.”
He said that CCTV showed Mrs Fairhurst crossing the road about 13 metres north of the puffin crossing in front of the lorry and walking diagonally across the road, passing in front of the lorry as the lights changed to green.
PC said because the lorry was left hand drive and Mrs Fairhurst approached it from the driver’s offside, it would have been very difficult for Mr Grundy to see Mrs Fairhurst.
He said: “It was a bad place to cross in front of a vehicle of that size.”
PC Peter Cunningham, also from the serious collision investigation unit, told the court that he had interviewed Mr Grundy under caution but found no evidence his driving was below the standard of a competent driver.
Mrs Griffin concluded that Mrs Fairhurst had misjudged the crossing and had died as a result of multiple injuries due to a road traffic collision.
She said she would write to the Department of Transport to raise concerns and asking them to review the regulastions that meant proximity mirrors did not have to be fitted in every HGV.
She also said the case highlighted the importance of using designated crossings.
In a statement read to the court Mrs Fairhurst’s husband Michael Fairhurst said: “She was a loving, caring and gentle woman. Our marriage was a happy one and she is irreplaceable. I love her very much.”
Following the hearing, Mrs Fairhurst’s sister in law Mary Philbin said: “She was a gentle little soul who will be missed by everyone. She was a character.
“Our thoughts are with the driver who I am sure has found this as traumatic as the family and to all those who witnessed the accident.
“I would also like to thank those who tried to help and were there when we couldn’t be.”