|The Rushden Echo and Argus, 11th December, 1931, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Higham Ferrers Tragedy: Adjourned Inquest
Car’s Crash Into Telegraph Pole
Driver’s Evidence At Kettering Inquiry
A verdict of accidental death was returned at the adjourned inquiry into the deaths of Mr. Egbert Thornton Wesson (37), and his five years old son, Gordon, of 149, High-street, Rushden (who were the victims of a motor fatality between Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough on Saturday 14th), which was held at the Kettering Police Station on Monday afternoon, by the Deputy Divisional Coroner, Mr. J. C. Parker.
It will be remembered that a saloon car, driven by Mr. Eric H. Field, of Kettering, with the two deceased as passengers, crashed into a telegraph post at a slight bend in the road and was severely damaged, while Mr. Wesson and his son sustained injuries from which they subsequently died in the Kettering General Hospital.
Evidence was given by Mr. Field, who described the events of the fatal journey. The jury attached no blame to anyone.
At the inquest, which was opened at the Kettering General Hospital on November 17th, Dr. Kamon, house surgeon, said that Mr. Wesson was admitted to the hospital suffering from a fracture of the skull and other injuries. He was unconscious and passed away at 5.30 p.m. on the Sunday.
The boy also had a fracture of the skull and was unconscious and died at 7.40 on Saturday (the day of the accident).
The inquest was adjourned to enable Mr. Field, who was still suffering from the effects of the accident, to attend. Mr. Field was removed to Kettering Hospital after the accident but was later taken to his home.
At the inquiry on Monday, Supt. E. E. Jones (Wellingborough), and Inspector Knight (Rushden), were present on behalf of the police, Mr. Peter Wilson represented Mr. Field, the driver of the car, Mr. L. F. Hales represented the widow, and Mr. A. J. Read was present on behalf of the Post Office.
Eric Hayden Field, Lower-street, Kettering, who gave evidence first, at the request of Mr. Wilson and his doctor, said he was a commercial traveller. On Saturday, November 14th, he went from Kettering to Rushden in the morning, about 10 a.m. and visited the premises of his employers, Messrs. Radburne and Bennett, after which he made a call and then went to the Victoria Hotel. He arrived there just after 12.30, had his lunch and talked to a customer. He had some bread and cheese and a glass of beer. During his stay at the hotel he had three glasses of beer altogether.
Coroner: That is all you had? Yes.
Leather In The Car
Witness said that about 1.45 p.m. Mr. Wesson came in and asked him if he were going to Kettering and whether he would give him a lift. He had known deceased for eighteen months or two years, and agreed to take him.
Mr. Wesson went across to his home to see if his boy could go too and came back and said he would be glad to go.
Witness took two other customers home and then went back and called for Mr. Wesson at his house about 2.30 p.m.
“When I went to the house,” continued witness, “Mr. Wesson asked me to go in as he was not quite ready. We went into the front room for about a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes, after which we left in my car. Mr. Wesson and his boy sat in front with me. I had the back of the car full of leather.”
Coroner: How did you sit? When we left the boy was sitting on Mr. Wesson’s knee, but going up Higham Hill Mr. Wesson moved over to the outside, and the lad sat between us.
Witness’ speed up the hill was less than 20 m.p.h., but going down Chown’s hill it increased to just on 30 m.p.h., and he continued at that speed well on the left-hand side of the road. Just before the accident happened witness looked at the oil gauge, as he had had a little trouble with it in the morning. He was also talking with Mr. Wesson when he felt the wheel kick violently away from him as if he had hit a pot hole or lump in the road.
“Then I had a momentary feeling of the car going away from me” said Field. “That is all I remember.”
In answer to the Coroner, witness said the road was fairly dry, but a bit greasy in places.
Child Not In Way
The car was a 1929 9 h.p. Standard saloon and was in good condition. He had been driving since 1917. He remembered nothing about the child not sitting still or getting in the way of the steering. The child had never been with him before.
Coroner: Although you were talking with Wesson were you concentrating on driving? Naturally as one always does.
Was there any other traffic? Only a 'bus some distance away.
Witness said he had been laid up ever since and was still in the doctor’s hands.
In answer to Mr. Hales witness said he had no difficulty in steering in spite of the fact that the child was sitting between the two bucket seats. It did not inconvenience him driving.
Mr. Hales: Is it not a fact that with the car a fault with most modern cars you cannot see the left side wing when you are sitting comfortably in the driver’s seat? That is so.
You can just see the tip if you sit a little uncomfortably? Yes.
The position of the near front wheel is a matter of conjecture? Not if you are used to driving.
It is a matter of judgment? Yes
Do you think the bump could have been caused by the car going on to the grass verge? No, I don’t think so.
Did you feel a second kick? No.
Witness added that the screen was quite clear, and neither Mr. Wesson nor himself were smoking as far as he could remember.
Mr. Hales: Was the back of the car overloaded? There were eight rolls of leather and two cases.
Driven 6,000 Miles
In answer to Mr. Wilson, Field said the leather would not equal the weight of two men. He had driven the car 6,000 miles and had had ample opportunity to learn to judge the width. He had full control of the car on the journey.
Inspector Knight said the total weight of the leather and cases was just under 1 cwt. 3 quarters.
Walter George Fisher, 27, Victoria-street, Irthlingborough, a driver in the employ of the United Counties Omnibus Co., Ltd., said that at 3.5 p.m. on November 14th he was driving a saloon ‘bus from Irthlingborough to Rushden, stopping at Chown’s Mill to set down two passengers.
“I started up again” said witness, “and got several yards when I saw a small saloon car coming round the bend down the hill from the direction of Higham Ferrers. I estimated the speed at about 30 m.p.h. a reasonable pace for a light car. There was nothing else about. I saw it get into a roll; it swerved to the left and collided with a telegraph post. It threw the car off the ground, and it landed on its off side, and came sliding down the hill. I had stopped as I saw it wobble, and as soon as it came to rest I jumped out of my cab and ran to give assistance. I saw two men and a little boy lying among the wreckage of the car. I helped to get the driver from underneath. The other two were lying in the gutter five or six feet away. They were badly injured and I turned the ‘bus round and rushed back to Irthlingborough for the ambulance.”
Witness, replying to the Coroner, said it was all over “in a second.”
The road was quite dry in the centre but he could not say if it was damp on the outside.
“Very Funny” Camber
Witness said he did five journeys over that road almost every day. The camber was “very funny” and sometimes seemed to pull a vehicle to the side of the road. He had not noticed any pot holes just there, but it was not a good piece of road and the telegraph post was right against the edge of the road. He always avoided passing another ‘bus at that point.
Mr. Hales: The road is so bad that anyone often going over it would know the place? Yes.
Witness said that the car started to wobble in the middle of the road. He could not say if it was coming off the grass when it hit the pole; it all happened so quickly.
Replying to Mr. Wilson, witness said the spot where the accident happened would be about two miles from the Queen Victoria Hotel. He had no apprehensions about the car until it started to wobble.
Arthur A. Arnsby, a United Counties ‘bus driver, said he was driving an omnibus from Higham Ferrers to Raunds on the Saturday afternoon in question. When near the Victoria Leather Co.’s tannery he saw a car on the off side of the road. A man and a boy lay on the road about two yards from the car, and when he got to the spot Driver Fisher and another man were pulling the driver from underneath. The man and the boy had severe head injuries; they were lying side by side, feet towards the grass. Witness rendered first aid and stayed with them until the arrival of the police and ambulance.
In answer to Mr. Hales, witness said the car must have overtaken him between Higham Ferrers and the scene of the accident, but he could not remember.
David Nicholson, motor mechanic, Higham-road, Rushden, said that on 16th November he visited the garage of Messrs. Parker and Son, Higham Ferrers, at the request of the police.
He examined the car pointed out by the police as having been involved in an accident on the Saturday. It was in good order, and there were no signs of excessive wear, or of any defection in the steering. Shock absorbers, fitted all round, were in order, also the springs. Before the accident, it would have been in perfect road condition. Even now the brakes (four-wheel) were not locked and gave no indication of having been so.
There was nothing he could say, from his examination, as to the cause of the accident.
Witness also examined the road at the scene of the accident, but could find no potholes, or any irregularities. The car was safe at 30 m.p.h. safe at 50 even.
Witness said one tyre was burst, but he believed that occurred during the accident.
In answer to a juryman, witness said he could say nothing concerning the wobble referred to by Mr. Fisher.
“I could not put any suggestion forward to help the jury” said witness in reply to Mr. Hales.
Replying to Mr. Wilson, he said the accident might have been caused by a front wheel wobble. The tear in one of the front tyres would, he thought, have been caused in the accident. It was too much of a real tear to have caused beforehand.
Sergt. Cherry said that at 3.15 p.m. the accident was reported to him at Irthlingborough by Mr. Fisher, with whom he went to the scene.
The bonnet of the car was facing towards Higham and the car was a complete wreck. The deceased were lying on the near side of the road facing Irthlingborough, about six feet from the car. They were both badly injured; the man unconscious, and the boy partially so. First aid had been rendered by Arnsby and his conductor, and the Irthlingborough motor ambulance arrived and witness assisted Ambulance Officer Ackers to lay the injured on the stretchers and to get them into the ambulance.
Field was walking about. He had cuts on the face, and was suffering very badly from shock. He was also taken to Kettering Hospital in the ambulance.
With assistance, witness moved the car to the side of the road, and regulated the congestion of traffic.
Sergt. Cherry said the metal part of the road at that point was 19ft. 2ins. wide. The distance from where the car struck the telegraph pole to where it came to rest was 73ft. 4ins. There was a broad-side skid mark 33ft. long. Coming down Chown’s hill in the direction of Irthlingborough there was on the off-side of the road a grass verge, 29ft. wide, tapering to 2ft. at the scene of the accident, and there was a low hedge, 3ft. high. On the near side there was a grass verge 4ft. 3ins. wide tapering to 2ft. at the scene of the accident, with a footpath 6ft. wide, and a hedge 5ft. high. The distance from the ‘bus stopping place at Stanwick Turn to the telegraph pole struck by the car was 160 yards.
The telegraph pole was 18ins. from the metal part of the road. The conditions at the time were: Weather fine, road dry, visibility good.
Mr. Hales: Were there any marks of skidding before the car struck the pole? No.
Replying to further questions by Mr. Hales witness said there was no indication as to the route the car took before the accident. The surface of the road was good at that point and the grass verge was practically level with the road.
After a brief retirement the foreman of the jury (Mr. W. Mudd), announced that they had found that the deceased were accidentally killed. No blame whatever attached to the driver. The jury, added the foreman, would like to express their very deep sympathy with the relatives of the deceased.
The only other point they would like considered, said the foreman, was the position of the telegraph pole. They wondered whether it could not be set further back; 18ins. did not seem very far, and gave very little chance in the event of skidding or in a fog. It was a very short distance and the jury would like to recommend that the post be set at least 3ft. from the road.
Mr. Hales acknowledged the vote of condolence.
Mr. Read said it would be possible to carry out the jury’s recommendation although there would be a certain amount of difficulty. The Post Office always tried to keep the poles as far from the road as possible and there was an understanding that 1ft. back would be sufficient to meet the requirements of traffic. The poles were fixed in accordance with the Surveyor’s requirements.
The Coroner said he was quite in agreement with the jury in their recommendation.