School teacher killed by fire engine

A PRIMARY school teacher was killed when a fire engine responding to an emergency call smashed into her car as she drove her daughter to Brownies, an inquest has heard.

Helen Hunt, 39, died from multiple injuries when her Citroen Saxo collided with the appliance – which has it’s lights flashing and sirens on – in Northfield, Birmingham.

Her nine-year-old daughter Laura was in the car on her way to Brownies when tragedy struck. She suffered minor injuries but her mother died later at Selly Oak Hospital on May 18 last year.

Birmingham Coroner’s Court heard today/yesterday (TUE)harrowing details of the moment the two vehicles collided just after 6pm that day.

The court was told the mother-of-two had pulled out of Norman Road to join Bunbury Road but appeared to hesitate and come to a halt in the middle of the main road.

Eyewitness Nathan Hill, a teacher, told the inquest : “The car pulled out and at that point I had a real moment of shock and horror of what I thought might happen. As soon as the car pulled out I had an awful feeling about this one.

“I was pretty much fixated on what was going to happen.

“I could not gage how far exactly the fire engine was from the junction.

“It looked to me like he tried to break and then he swerved. The manoeuvre itself looked to me like a deliberate attempt to swerve the vehicle.

“It looked like it took every action it could to try to avoid the collision.”

The fire engine veered from one side of the road to the other to try an avoid the car and swerved as the breaks were applied and screeched, the court heard.

Mrs Hunt’s husband Shaun was sat at the front of the packed court room listening to the evidence with relatives.

Kimberley Franklin, who was behind Mrs Hunt in her BMW before she pulled out, said she noticed the tender travelling up the road at a speed of more than 30 miles per hour.

“The fire engine appeared to be on a call because its lights were flashing and sirens were going and it was travelling at speed, ” she said.

“As it approached the car I heard the breaks and there was screeching and lots of noise and the fire engine came to a complete stop. I don’t think the breaking distance was sufficient.

“It was a short distance from where the Saxo was. It came round the bend but the Saxo didn’t move. It just stayed there. The road was clear and the Saxo just moved slowly into the middle of the road.

“It is vital to make sure it is clear and I don’t think that Helen saw the fire engine when she went.”

Another eyewitness, Coleen Imms, who was on a bicycle at the time, described how she thought Mrs Hunt had hesitated as she pulled out of the junction.

She said: “I remember Helen pulled out into the middle of the road and as the fire engine approached I remember a slight hesitance – as if she didn’t know whether to go or not. She pulled forward slowly and the fire engine hit the side of her.

“I could see what was going to happen before it happened. When she saw the fire engine was coming towards her she hesitated.”

Other witnesses told the inquest they thought the fire engine was travelling between 40-50mph down the B-road.

Patrick Rabbitt, who was travelling on the Bunbury Road, said: “I was aware of an appliance behind me with the blues and twos and sirens on. The appliance was slightly towards the middle of the road.

“The car appeared to go forward and roll back. It had decided to cross the road. There would not have been time for the fire engine to stop before it reached the car. A stopping distance would not have been possible in my opinion.”

Samuel Dabbs told the inquest he saw the Saxo trying to pull out of the road and was going to let it go. But when he saw the fire engine approaching he changed his mind.

He told the court: “I hesitated because there was a fire engine coming in the opposite direction. It was an emergency. It took priority as far as I was concerned.”

Firefighters and police officers are due to give evidence at the inquest this afternoon.

The inquest continues.

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