Rathfriland woman’s crash death mystery

The scene of the fatal accident in Rathfriland, County Down
The scene of the fatal accident in Rathfriland, County Down

Experts have been unable to establish what led to an elderly woman crashing her car into the side of a bin lorry in Rathfriland, an inquest has heard.

Hessie Brown, who was 83 and lived on the Bannfield Road just outside the town, was killed when the Rover 100 she was driving exited Caddell’s Lane and struck the lorry on Downpatrick Street on May 6 last year.

A forensic investigator who examined the scene said the brakes on Ms Brown’s vehicle had no detectable defects, and there was no obvious reason why she crossed the give way line at an estimated speed of 35mph.

Emerson Callender also said there was no evidence that Ms Brown had been wearing a seatbelt.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson heard evidence from assistant state pathologist James Lyness.

In a statement read to the hearing in Belfast, Dr Lyness said the deceased had a history of heart trouble, and could have suffered a fatal heart attack “at any time” - but added there was “no evidence she had a heart attack prior to the accident”. The court also heard that Ms Brown, who had never married and had no close family, previously worked as a legal secretary before retiring in her 40s to care for her then elderly and ill parents.

A friend of Ms Brown described her as a very private person who confided in him that she was an increasingly nervous driver.

William Johnston told the coroner: “She was a kind-hearted person and very reserved. If she had given up her car she would have been isolated. The only thing she said once or twice was, ‘I’m not well’.”

The driver of the bin lorry was found to be travelling at between 10 and 20mph when the collision occurred.

Geoffrey Johnston, who was on a run for Banbridge council collecting bottles from pubs in the area, told the coroner he initially thought his lorry had blown a tyre when he heard the bang.

He was able to call an ambulance, but said: “I was shaking so badly I couldn’t speak.”

The coroner found that Ms Brown died from head and neck injuries.

Concluding the inquest, Ms Anderson said: “She had been travelling along Caddell’s Lane and failed to stop at the junction, but the reason for this cannot be established.”