Reporting drunken man killed on Wrexham link road could have saved his life, says coroner

Reporting drunken man killed on Wrexham link road could have saved his life, says coroner

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Staff Reporter

A MAN hit and killed by a lorry as he walked along a dual carriageway could have been saved if more people had reported the matter to the police.

A coroner said several drivers saw Gary MacDonald Graham walking along the Llan-y-Pwll link road on June 9 last year but only one reported the matter.

Officers responded quickly but by the time they arrived Mr Graham had been hit by a lorry and was killed instantly, suffering severe head and leg injuries.

There were no witnesses, an inquest held Ruthin was told on Tuesday.

Mr Graham, 57, of Borras, Wrexham, had been drinking in Chester on a stag party before a taxi back to Wrexham.

He was very drunk and couldn’t remember where he lived – but said he would give the taxi driver directions.

But there was some confusion and Mr Graham told the driver to pull over on Borras Park Road at about 11.30pm as he needed to go to the toilet. He said he would walk the rest of the way home.

Mr Graham, a Falklands veteran originally from Glasgow, paid his £23 fare and set off trying to walk home.

At 11.35pm, he was seen by an HGCV near Wrexham Golf Club.

Mr Graham was waving his arms to attract attention as if to try to thumb a lift but the driver continued on to Wrexham Industrial Estate.

Ten minutes later he was spotted by Natalie Critchlow, driving home from work in Chester, near to the roundabout by the golf club entrance.

She saw he’d fallen into the road before staggering back towards the kerb.

She drove around the roundabout three times and saw he had made his way back to the entrance to the golf club and was waving his arms frantically.

Ms Critchlow, 16 weeks pregnant at the time, was reticent to stop but Mr Graham came towards her. He was slurring his words and she could not understand him.

She concluded he must have been drinking at the golf club and was waiting for a taxi home, so she left.

He was next seen by Natalie Baines, who was on the way home in a taxi when she saw Mr Graham walking along the road near the golf club.

He walked towards the car waving his arms but the taxi drove past him slowly.

She got home at about 11.50pm and phoned the police to say she’d seen a disorientated man walking on the road where there were no street lights.

At that time, lorry driver Carl Doyle, from Skelmersdale, was driving to the industrial estate when Mr Graham jumped out at him. He swerved to avoid Mr Graham but didn’t call the police.

Giving evidence, Mr Doyle said he left Rowan Foods to pick up goods from Village Bakery before heading back along the link road at about 1.30am but the road was closed by police because Mr Graham had been hit and killed.

It is believed Mr Graham was hit shortly after midnight. The first person on the scene was Daniel Phoenix on his way home from a friend’s house in Llay.

He spotted something in the road and thought it was a badger but as he got closer it was apparent it was a man.

Mr Phoenix stopped 50 yards from the body and immediately called the police.

A car behind him, driven by Jack Rhys Jones, pulled into the outside lane.

Neither was sure of the name of the road so Mr Phoenix drove on to find the name of the road while Mr Jones moved his car to protect Mr Graham's body and prevent anyone else from hitting it.

Police were on the scene within about a minute of him calling them.

Two officers attempted CPR but it was clear Mr Graham was already dead.

Paramedics arrived and pronounced him dead shortly before 12.15am.

Following police investigations, lorry driver Peter Gemmell from Preston was arrested and interviewed.

He said he was not aware he had hit a person, although he did feel a bump which he thought could have been a cone or small animal.

Upon arriving at the industrial estate, he checked his vehicle and there was damage to the front bumper and a light but no sign of any blood.

Mr Gemmell drove home and although he was aware the link road was closed and had to find an alternative route, he did not connect it with the bump he felt earlier and the damage to his vehicle.

In interview, he said he saw something out of the corner of his eye and hit it but he did not think too much about it.

Mr Gemmell did not pull over because it was raining hard and it was “quite a dodgy place to stop”.

Police collision investigator Colin Dobbins said if Mr Gemmell had been driving with full beam headlights, his visibility would have been about 200 metres ahead but on dipped lights it would have been between 25m and 30m.

Mr Dobbins said damage to Mr Gemmell’s vehicle indicated he was crouching or kneeling on impact.

He estimated the speed of the lorry on impact was 40-45mph. The speed limit on that stretch of road is 60mph.

Mr Dobbins said if more drivers had called the police, it could have made a difference and potentially save Mr Grahams life but he was speaking in hindsight and the case showed how quickly and easily things go wrong.

Recording a conclusion of death from a collision, Nicola Jones, assistant coroner for North Wales East and Central, said: “The police responded very quickly but within the short time Mr Graham had been hit.

“It is a great shame. There were opportunities for a different outcome but it was such a short window to call the police and alert them.

“It would have been the decent thing to do the phone the police for help.”

A previous inquest hearing was told Mr Graham served with the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards and was involved in the battle of Tumbledown during the Falklands War.

See full story in the Leader

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