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Road death of Somerset five-year-old was accidental - inquest
9:14am Thursday 30th August 2012 in Taunton
A FIVE-YEAR-OLD girl from Somerset died in a horrific crash after the group she was with crossed a road into the path of oncoming motorcyclists, an inquest heard.
The riders had little time to react when Lily-Mae Jeffries and other family members walked across the A354 in Weymouth.
Coroner for West Dorset, Michael Johnston, recorded that Lily-Mae died as a result of an accident.
The schoolgirl from Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset, died on March 11 this year at Southampton General Hospital – the day after being involved in a collision with two motorcyclists.
The hearing at County Hall in Dorchester heard Lily-Mae died due to a severe traumatic brain injury.
A family group, involving Lily-Mae’s great-grandmother Anita Jeffries, and the little girl’s two sisters, Kaycee-Ann, 10, and Annabella, six, were attempting to cross the road, which has a 50mph speed limit, to feed the birds at the nature reserve.
According to witnesses, Mrs Jeffries was heard to tell the girls to ‘be careful’.
Lorry driver Shane Coles said he had been driving towards Chaffey’s roundabout when he saw an elderly lady and children at the side of the road near the entrance to a footpath leading to Goldcroft Avenue.
He said: “They were walking slowly and they seemed to stop in the middle of the road. I could see it happening before it did. Then they stepped out again into the path of the bikes.”
Mr Coles and other witnesses said the motorcyclists had been driving safely, within the speed limit.
Motorcyclist Richard Watkins, who was at the front of a group of three bikes, said: “It just seemed to happen in slow motion. One of them stepped out and then it progressed after that. They sort of stretched across the road.”
He added: “At that stage I braked, and although I had gone left, one of the girls saw me and rushed across the road.
“I could not have gone any further left because I would have gone into her.”
Mr Watkins said he tried to pick a gap to get through the group safely but the family were too close together.
Martin Simons was riding his bike around 30 metres behind Mr Watkins.
He said: “I was watching what happened and I slammed my brakes on the moment I saw Richard’s brake light come on.”
Evidence was heard that Mr Simons’s bike had almost come to a stop but the vehicle hit one of the pedestrians, believed to be Lily-Mae.
*RECORDING that Lily-Mae died as a result of an accident and that while crossing a road she was struck by a motorcycle, coroner Michael Johnston said: “I cannot begin to understand why this family group stepped forward into the motorcyclists’ way.
“What I do accept is that when they did, it did not leave the motorcyclists, particularly the lead, enough time to do anything other than what he did, which was pull over to the left, de-throttle and brake.
“In my mind there is no doubt what happened is that this group were crossing the road and they passed the centre lane.
“Several witnesses say that they then walked out into the other lane into the path of the lead motorcyclist who was not given enough time to avoid the collision.
“Once he had struck two of them and they were scattered across the road, the second motorcyclist, who was going very slowly, had no gap to go through the various people spread across the road.”
Mr Johnston offered his sympathies to Lily-Mae’s family.
*AFTER the inquest, Lily-Mae’s parents John and Charlene said in a statement the findings ‘shed new light on the sequence of events’ that led to Lily-Mae’s death.
They said losing her was a ‘great loss’.
The couple said they acknowledged the crossing point was not recognised as the preferred choice of crossing but it was ‘ironically safer’ than the designated crossing point at Chaffey’s roundabout.
The couple thanked a number of people for their support and said they were considering ‘further action’ regarding their daughter’s death.