Mum killed after falling asleep at the wheel

The scene of the rta on the A19 north of Wynyard services. The wreckage of the car is to the left of the picture.
The scene of the rta on the A19 north of Wynyard services. The wreckage of the car is to the left of the picture.

A MUM was killed after her car veered off the road when she fell asleep at the wheel, an inquest heard.

Her daughter woke from the smash to see her dying mum, Margaret Clay, behind the wheel.

 Mrs Clay’s husband, Neville, was following in a car behind on the A19 on the outskirts of Hartlepool and drove into the aftermath of the tragic accident.

 Mrs Clay, 42, was pronounced dead at the scene but her 15-year-old daughter, Laura, escaped with minor injuries.

An inquest into Mrs Clay’s death at Hartlepool Coroner’s Court heard how the family were on the way back from a caravan holiday in York when the former District of Easington council worker’s black Vauxhall Corsa overtook a coach.

The coach driver was forced to break as the Corsa cut in and drifted off the northbound carriageway and into a layby before striking the back of the heavy goods vehicle at 3.05pm on June 5.

There were no signs that Mrs Clay had used the brakes.

The force of the 70mph-impact ripped the roof off the driver’s side of the car, spun the vehicle round and flung it into a hedgerow.

A post-mortem examination by consultant pathologist Catherine Hobday found Mrs Clay, of Abbeydale Gardens, South Hetton, died of massive neck and head injuries.

Hartlepool Coroner Malcolm Donnelly recorded a verdict of accidental death after an emotional hearing. He said: “We don’t know for certain, but it’s speculation based on the known facts that she probably fell asleep.

“We know that in every other respect the vehicle was well maintained, she was physically healthy and there was clearly no issue about wanting to do harm or anything like that.”

He told a tearful Mr Clay: “This was a tragic accident. I can’t see anything that would give you comfort. It’s just something that every one of us hopes we don’t have to confront. But perhaps you have people around you who can help.”

Mr Clay and his family were critical of the coach driver and its 44 passengers after learning that a police appeal had to be issued as the vehicle did not stop at the scene of the crash and no-one on board contacted police immediately.

The inquest heard that police investigators were also “disappointed” with the driver’s actions, although confirmed it was not a criminal offence that he carried on his journey.

Mr Clay, who is also dad to Hannah, 12, said: “I’m very happy with the emergency services and the people who stopped to help.

“We were just disappointed about the bus. How so many people on a coach could not phone it in or stop I do not know. But we know it wouldn’t have made any difference.”

PC Paul Harris, from the collision unit at Cleveland Police, said: “We were disappointed that he didn’t stop. We caught up with the bus eventually and examined it for any contact, but did not find any.”

The 57-year-old man inside the wagon, who had pulled over to take a break on his way to Scotland from Teesport, was said to be uninjured, but left “extremely shaken” after the incident.

Mrs Clay worked at offices in Seaside Lane, Easington, and then Durham County Council when it became a unitary authority two years ago.

Don McLure, the council’s corporate director of resources, previously said she was an extremely popular and well-liked member of staff.