Bracken and soil saved baby boy in car crash

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The Independent Online
A BABY survived alone for three days on a mountainside, living off handfuls of soil after he was thrown out of a car as it plunged off the road.

Liam Evans had "a miraculous escape", landing uninjured in soft undergrowth when the car, driven by his grandfather Gwilym Evans careered down a steep slope near the Horseshoe Pass in North Wales, an inquest was told yesterday.

Mr Evans, 61, a retired police inspector from Old Colwyn, Colwyn Bay, fractured his skull and was killed instantly.

The inquest at Denbigh was told that Mr Evans had left his home on 31 August without explanation, taking with him Liam, aged 13 months. Mr Evans is believed to have filled his fuel tank and driven at least 180 miles. "There is absolutely no explanation why he was at that location at that particular time," said John Hughes, the North Wales coroner, adding that he had to ask himself whether Mr Evans had deliberately driven off the road. "If you look at the location, how certain could you be that one was going to be killed outright in those circumstances?

"Indeed, with a small child strapped in the car, it is out of character for Gwilym Evans to take an action like that when we have heard evidence only that he doted on his grandchildren and was a devoted, loving family man with a deep religious conviction."

But Constable David Clarke, who examined the area where Mr Evans' car left the road, said he could not rule out the possibility that the grandfather had deliberately driven off the road. There were no signs that the vehicle had been forced to brake harshly. Nor was there any evidence that the car had collided with another vehicle or with an animal on the road.

A examination had shown the car to be free of mechanical defects. But PC Clarke believed Mr Evans had not been wearing a seatbelt, while Liam had been properly restrained.

"A deliberate attempt to leave the carriageway cannot be ruled out as a possibility in these circumstances," he said.A note addressed to the family was found on Mr Evans' body, but his son, Gary, 30, said he did not believe it was written by a man contemplating suicide. "It seems to be the exact opposite. He talks about things he was proposing to do," he added.

"From what I have seen it is not a typical suicide note," said Mr Hughes.

On the day of his disappearance, Liam was being particularly boisterous. Later, Barbara Evans, his grandmother, noticed that the family's maroon Vauxhall Vectra had disappeared and assumed her husband had gone out with Liam.

When they failed to return by 4pm, in time for Liam's feed, she began to worry, and when Gary arrived to collect Liam at 5pm, she rang the local hospital. Mr Evans had left behind both his house keys and the medication he occasionally took for his back. After a three-day nationwide hunt, Liam was found by Matthew Williams, 10, who, while out with his grandparents, heard a baby crying. In a statement read to the court, the boy said: "I got a bit scared, so I decided to run down the hill and tell my grandad. My grandad said, 'Don't be silly' and it was probably just a sheep.

"I ducked down, and through the gap in the ferns I could see a little baby. I could see he was kneeling down, looking up the hill. I was talking to him. He stopped crying. He started playing with the ferns," he said.

Dr Donald Waite, a Home Office pathologist, said the baby had survived in a micro- climate in the thick bracken, which had protected him from too much sunlight during the day and from the cold at night. The soil provided enough moisture to keep him alive.

"He had dirt and soil round his mouth and he was dehydrated, but thankfully he was alive," he said.

The baby survived because "he landed in a soft area and was not struck by the car, and secondly, the conditions in August were such that while he was in the deep bracken, he was in the safest place. It was a miraculous escape."

Tests had shown that no alcohol or drugs were present in Mr Evans' body. He had not been suffering from any disease to explain the sudden loss of control of the car.

Mr Hughes said there was insufficient evidence to support verdicts of either suicide or accident, and recorded an open verdict.