A woman who drove into oncoming traffic resulting in the death of a grandmother in Northamptonshire has told the family that she is “dreadfully sorry” for their loss.
Julie May Bunkall, from The Hedges in Rushden, died on June 6, 2013, when a car veered into her lane on the A6 Burton Latimer bypass between the Higham Road and Cranford Road junction and collided with her silver Peugeot 206.
In inquest into the 70-year-old’s death, held today at the Rockingham Forest Hotel in Corby, heard that there was “nothing she could have done” to avoid the collision and that she died of chest injuries caused by the impact.
The car that hit Miss Bunkall’s was a black Peugeot 308 driven by Samantha Brockway on her way home from a zipwire activity with a friend. She was charged with dangerous driving but was found not guilty by courts on the ‘grounds of instanity’. Summarising that case, assistant coronor Belinda Cheney said it had been concluded that Mrs brockway had ‘blacked out’.
During the inquest, collision investigater PC Cliff Wilkins said the accident was most likely caused by Mrs Brockway’s “loss of control of the vehicle while incapacitated.”
After giving evidence about the accident, which she said she had no memory of, Mrs Brockway said to Miss Bunkall’s family: “I am dreadfully sorry for your loss and nothing I could say could make it better.”
Witnesses who were also on the road at the time - around 2.30 on a Thursday afternoon - all said that Mrs Brockway’s car came out from behind a white box van and drifted into the opposite side of the road.
Kathleen Foster-Collier, who was driving her daughter home from school, said: “I saw the car come out quickly and said to my daughter that it was going to hit us.
“It missed us and hit the second car behind us and I stopped and called the emergency services.
“The black car didn’t swerve or break, it just seemed to keep going straight.”
Nicholas Redman, who had been driving behind Mrs Brockway’s car said: “I don’t remember seeing any indicators on the black car and it would have had room if it had been trying to overtake the box lorry.
“The silver car (Mrs Bunkall’s) was very far to the left and there was nowhere for it to go.”
PC Wilkins, who investigated the scene after the accident said: “The black car struck the silver one head on. There was no evidence of excessive speed by either car and seatbelts were used. Mrs Brockway had not been using a mobile phone, suggesting she had a complete lack of awareness, rather than a momentary distraction.
“Evidence shows that Mrs Bunkall applied her brakes with considerable force when the car came towards her and there is nothing to show that her driving was anything other than competent and careful.
“The pressure used by Mrs Brockway to control her car is in accordance with incapacitation. My conclusion is that the accident was due to a loss of control by Mrs Brockway while incapacitated.”
A statement from Mrs Bunkall’s daughter, Emily, said that her mother was “always helping her friends and family out.” Speaking after the inquest she said: “My mum was irreplaceable and our lives have changed forever.”
A post mortem examination revealed that Mrs Bunkall sustained injuries, which would have caused an almost instantaneous death. Coroner Cheney concluded that Miss Bucknall’s death was caused by serious chest injuries sustained in a road traffic accident. She said: “This is an enourmously tragic loss of a much-loved mother and grandmother.
“Mrs Brockway’s apology was brave and I am sure that it will be accepted. I would like to offer my overwhelming condolences.”