Tractor driver describes moment of fatal car crash

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A tractor driver has described the moment he saw a car crash into a ditch – in an accident which killed the passenger and seriously injured the driver.

Alexis Howgill, 82, of Castle Lane, Steyning was the front seat passenger in a Jaguar X-type estate car which crashed on the B2135 Needs Hill, north of Patridge Green, on February 9.

An inquest into her death was held at Parkside, Horsham on October 9.

Joseph Slack, an arable farmer, was driving a tractor along the road, when he saw the car, driven by 86-year-old Patrick Howgill, attempt to overtake the farm vehicle.

“I remember indicating,” said Mr Slack.

“There was room to overtake me. The car swerved over the central reservation on to the right hand side of the road.

“Then the car came back over to the left so it was touching the grass.

“I remember seeing the car coming down the inside of me.”

Mr Slack described how the car went ‘airbourne’ and hit an oak tree, before coming to rest in a ditch.

PC Paul Banks, forensic collision investigator for Sussex Police said: “The initial overtake in isolation would have been initially acceptable. It is possible he has seen the indicator at the last minute and tried to come back in. But because of his excess speed he has taken action.

“The physical evidence is consistent with him taking evading action to avoid going into the back of the tractor.

“He had taken action to swerve to the left. When he left the road he was pretty much a passenger in a vehicle.”

Mrs Howgill was taken to Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, where she died two days later on February 11.

Results from a post mortem found she died of severe cerebral trauma and other injuries.

Mr Howgill was also taken to hospital with serious injuries but Yonnie Fraser, the couple’s daughter, said her father’s condition had improved.

Speaking at the inquest, Mrs Fraser said: “My parents lives were very orderly.

“She had been involved in buying and selling antiques in the Petworth area. She did own and drive her own car, she wasn’t reliant on my father for transport.”

Mrs Fraser said her father was used to the car he was driving.

Mrs Howgill ran Alexis Decorative Antiques in East Street, Pulborough, while her husband, a specialist restorer of clocks and barometers, was the proprietor of Clockwise Antiques, also in the village.

Penelope Schofield, coroner for West Sussex, said Alexis Howgill died as a result of a road traffic collision.

She added: “It is quite clear that Patrick Howgill undertook the tractor to take evading action because he was approaching the rear of the tractor. He then himself became a passenger. The rest of it was taken out of his hands.

“The Jaguar hit the bank and ended up colliding with the oak tree.”

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