Family died when car swerved head-on into lorry, inquest told

Mr Powell and 18-month-old Penny were the sole survivors of the tragic traffic accident

Celine Wadhera
Friday 11 June 2021 01:49
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<p>Zoe Powell and her four children, Phoebe, Simeon, Amelia and Penny</p>

Zoe Powell and her four children, Phoebe, Simeon, Amelia and Penny

Zoe Powell and her three children died in a road traffic collision, likely due to driver error, when the family car collided with an oncoming lorry, an inquest heard.

Oxford Coroner’s Court heard that Ms Powell and three of her children — eight-year-old Phoebe, six-year-old Simeon, and four-year-old Amelia — were killed in a car crash on the A40 near Oxford on 12 October 2020.

Josh Powell, Zoe’s husband and their 18-month-old daughter Penny were also in the car but survived the collision.

The family had just left Mr Powell’s parents’ house in Worcestershire, and were on their way to their own home in Chinnor, Oxfordshire when the collision occurred.

Ms Powell was driving the family’s Subaru when it swerved into the path of a lorry on the opposite side of the road.

While senior coroner Darren Salter could not rule out the possibility that the crash was a “deliberate act,” he said that he did not consider it likely that Ms Powell had intentionally crashed the car.

He said there was “no evidence” that Ms Powell had thoughts of harming her children or herself.

“It’s more likely to be due to fatigue or distraction, or a combination of the two, and that the steering input was driver error,” Mr Salter said.

He told the court that before the crash, cruise control was active, and at the last moment the accelerator had been pressed instead of the brake. Mr Salter said this was a “phenomenon sometimes seen in these circumstances.”

Ultimately, he reached the conclusion that it was a road traffic collision that killed Ms Powell and her three children.

Ms Powell was pronounced dead at the scene, as was her daughter Phoebe, with their multiple injuries listed as the cause of their deaths.

Children Simeon and Amelia were rushed to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford where both succumbed to their injuries. Simeon was diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries which caused his death, and Amelia suffered a severe head injury which led to hers.

Mr Powell had to be extracted from the wreckage of the collision. He then spent several months in hospital recovering from his injuries. In a statement read to the court, he told the inquest that he had no recollection of the crash, and his last memory from the evening was being at his parents’ home.

Penny, the Powell’s youngest daughter, was thrown from the Subaru on impact, and was found crying on the roadside after the crash. She received first aid at the scene before being sent to receive treatment at the hospital. She was later discharged.

The Inquest also heard from lorry driver Adao Patricio, who said that including the weight of his cargo the lorry had a total weight of 36,000kg at the time of the crash.

Mr Patricio told the inquest that he saw the Subaru on the opposite side of the road before it “suddenly” changed directions and swerved into his lane.

“I had nowhere to go,” he said. “The car came across onto my side of the road very quickly — I don’t know how that could even happen.”

He described the Powell’s car as travelling “fast” but not at an “excess speed.”

“I didn’t have time to brake before the car hit my lorry,” Mr Patricio said.

The inquest heard that an investigation found no issues with Mr Patricio’s driving before the collision, and that there was “no clear reason” for the Subaru swerving into the path of the lorry.

The forensic investigator, Pc Murray Maclean, told the court there was no evidence of braking or loss of control prior to the collision. He added that Mr Patricio had “no real chance” of avoiding the tragic accident.

The families of the deceased issued a statement though the Thames Valley Police, stating that the conclusion of the investigation brought “closure” to a very difficult chapter of the family’s lives.

The family thanked the first responders, police, coroner and crash investigators for their hard work, and also issued a warning about distracted driving.

“The possibility that such a small distraction may have caused such a horrific accident should act as a painful reminder for everyone that roads are dangerous places; the actions of a single moment have wrecked an entire family and had a lasting impact on everyone around them

“Whilst it may be unpleasant to conceive, there is not a single driver who has not been in a similar situation but by luck alone they have avoided a serious crash.

“Driving is not as safe as we sometimes wish it was. We all have a duty to always drive to the best of our abilities and ensure that we keep the roads as safe as possible.

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