78-year-old pensioner tried to walk faster before fatal collision

Published: 20 Sep 2012 13:00

CCTV imagery has shown that a 78-year-old pensioner tried to walk faster to avoid being hit as she crossed Wellington Road in Enniskillen but was fatally injured when she was struck by a double decker bus.

The late Mrs. Kitty Gault.

An inquest into the death of Mrs. Kitty Gault of 21, Hillview Park Enniskillen heard that Mrs. Gault was one of four pedestrians who stepped out on a crossing when the traffic lights were green to vehicular traffic.

Two pedestrians made it to the other side. Another, a young girl, jumped back as the bus approached but Mrs. Gault tried to speed up. She was struck by the bus 1.3 metres from the kerb and died later that day in the Erne Hospital, October 26, 2011, from head injuries.

Harrowing evidence was heard at the inquest as witnesses to the accident recalled the fatal accident.

Olivia McGovern was waiting to cross Wellington Road that Wednesday morning, along with Mrs. Gault and seven others.

"The old lady was standing in front of these people at the edge of the road waiting to cross the road. The little red man was illuminated. I observed the old woman step out on the road to cross. A young female also left the footpath. I heard the screech of brakes coming from a bus travelling from the Sligo Road direction and the sounding of the horn. I heard this four to five times," she told the inquest.

"I heard the young female scream and observed her jump back. I then observed the old woman attempt to walk faster across the road. The bus impacted with the woman. The old woman hit her head off the windscreen of the bus. It was a loud bang. I heard the smash of the front windscreen. The impact caused the old woman to travel up the road approximately five feet. A crowd gathered around the old woman. Nobody gave first aid. A traffic warden placed his coat over the woman on the road. I did not think the bus was travelling fast," she said.

She agreed the woman had walked against the warning light.

Jackie McCabe, who was at the front of the bus en route to visit her father in Belfast, recalled: "We were driving up towards Toytown and some young lad went across the road to Mauds. When the bus was level with Toytown another young person, a girl with short dark hair, ran across the road.

"I noticed the light was green for the bus to go through. We were about level with Toytown and I noticed an old lady running across the road. She must have thought it was a green light because of the people in front of her. The bus driver slammed on the brakes. When I realised the lady was going to hit the windscreen I screamed. The driver tried to get the bus stopped but could not.

"The lady hit the window screen and smashed it. I saw the lady getting thrown up in the air and forward. I then covered my eyes and shouted 'Oh God'. The bus came to a stop and I was thrown into a bar and a sheet of hard plastic."

She was "badly shaken" after the accident and tearfully agreed with Coroner John Leckey that it was "very upsetting".

Evidence from a camera on the bus showed that the double decker was just one minute and two seconds into its journey from Enniskillen bus station to Belfast when the accident occurred. The driver was not at fault and there were no defects to either the bus or the traffic signals.

Mr. Keith Carlisle, a mechanical engineer at the road traffic investigation unit, examined the CCTV on the bus. It offered him information to give a second-by-second analysis of the journey.

His examination showed that the bus left the Ulsterbus station at 10.54 and 25 seconds and impacted with Mrs. Gault at 10.55 and 27 seconds.

The camera picked up four pedestrians who crossed the road while the traffic lights showed green. Two reached the footpath at the other side. One pedestrian stopped at the dashed line and the other was "impacted".

"At 10.55 and 24 seconds, two people became visible [on the CCTV footage]. These people became visible from behind a van travelling in lane two in the Sligo-bound lanes. At 10.55 and 25 to 26 seconds, the bus decelerates causing a suitcase on a shelf to fall forward. This is presumably due to severe braking.

"At 10.55 and 26 seconds, one of these people stops at the centre line and the carriageway. The second continues to cross the road at a hurried pace. At 10.55 and 27 seconds she is struck by the front of the bus and projected along Wellington Road," he said.

Mrs. Gault was struck about 1.3 metres from the footpath. There were no defects with the pelican crossing and no defects to the anti-lock brakes and steering in the bus. He said when Mrs. Gault was knocked down, the traffic light was in favour of the Ulsterbus.

The Coroner, Mr. John Leckey said: "Mrs. Gault did something all of us have done from time to time, crossing against a red light. It is a salutory warning to everyone to obey the warning signs at pedestrian crossings."

The inquest found that Mrs. Gault died of subdural and subarachnoid haemorrhage associated with bruising of brain and fracture of skull.

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