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Coughing Fit Driver Recalls Deadly Accident
A lorry driver sobbed as he recalled how a coughing fit caused him to black out at the wheel before a collision that left four members of the same family dead.
Robert Reed, 75, his wife Margaret, 74, their one-year-old great-granddaughter Destiny and her mother Natalie, 18, died in the collision between a Renault Megane Scenic and the Volvo lorry near Seaham, County Durham, in April last year.
Lorry driver Owen Davis was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving but was told he would not face prosecution after medical tests showed he had a whooping cough infection at the time, backing up his story.
Immediately after the crash he told a witness he had blacked out during a coughing fit while driving a load of tarmac.
He was unaware he had gone over the car, and told NHS admin worker Anne-Marie Edwards, who had stopped to help: "I'm just pleased I haven't hit anybody."
Mr Davis told the inquest in Crook: "I was coughing at nowt. I tried to get a breath in. I started to panic.
"There's no lay-by, I'm going to have to park in the road and the next thing I remember is peace and quiet. I remember thinking about what was in the fridge for dinner and getting my sandwich."
It was then he began to cough for what he estimated to be about six seconds before he passed out.
"I got out of the lorry, I was dazed, I didn't know what had happened. I had a pain in my stomach where I had hit the steering wheel. I wanted to lie down."
The experience frightened him, he said, and he wanted to ring his wife and tell her he had been in an accident but his phone had been taken away.
Then someone told him his 15-tonne lorry had hit a car.
"I said 'Oh Jesus Christ is he fine?' He said 'Yeah, yeah, he's fine, he's getting sorted out now'."
It was only later at the Sunderland Royal Infirmary where he was being treated that police told him that the four people had died.
Mr Davis, who is married with two sons, became upset when he recalled that devastating moment.
Asked by the coroner if there was anything he would like to add, Mr Davis looked at the grieving family members and replied: "A lot of things, but I can't. Just that my heart goes out to them."
Outside the hearing, Julie Duggan, whose son Sean was Natalie's partner and Destiny's father, said: "The family are devastated. They can grieve but they cannot move on."
Durham Coroner Andrew Tweddle returned verdicts of accidental death in all four cases.