Northern Ireland’s senior coroner has spoken of the “dreadfully tragic” death of a 97-year-old lady who was knocked down and killed on her way to the hairdresser’s.
Recording that Barbara Bullock died from the multiple injuries she sustained in the road traffic collision on March 30 last year, coroner John Leckey said the mother, grandmother and great grandmother was “fairly remarkable ... and an example to us all”.
Expressing his sympathies and condolences to her son Alastair and the rest of her family, Mr Leckey said: “If I live to your mother’s great age, I hope I would have her health and approach to life. She is an example to us all.”
The inquest, sitting in the Old Town Hall in Belfast on Wednesday, had earlier heard that Mrs Bullock was walking along the Donaghadee Road, close to her home at Beverley Hills in Ballyholme, Bangor, when she stepped off the kerb and was struck by a passing Toyota Celica car at around 11.30 that morning.
Statements from witnesses at the scene which were read out in court described how it was a “clear, bright and dry day” and that the Toyota Celica neither braked nor swerved as it travelled along the road towards Donaghadee, but they saw the “little old lady” being “flung into the air” when she was struck by the car.
In her statement Kathleen Barnes told police how she saw Mrs Bullock waiting to cross the busy road and “had a gut feeling something bad would happen”.
“It’s hard to say whether she stepped or ran out and then she was lying on the road,” described Mrs Barnes, adding that when she ran to her aid, “I noticed her shoe and handbag lying a bit further away”.
Other drivers and witnesses, including an off-duty staff nurse, stopped to help the widow, recording that as she lay bleeding from her mouth and head onto the road, “she was breathing and tried to move”.
Paramedics and ambulance crews were soon on the scene and rushed Mrs Bullock to the Ulster Hospital, but she tragically died later that day.
In his statement and his evidence to the inquest, Alastair Bullock said his mother was a fairly independent lady who was “more than capable”, and that while she had a home help who called twice daily, “that was more for company for her”.
Mrs Bullock, the court heard, was originally from Paisley in Scotland and had been widowed the previous month when her husband of 66 years, Cecil, died.
The couple had both been in the Army and were wartime sweethearts having met in the War Office in London before moving to the Bangor area when Mr Bullock was offered a job as a chartered secretary for the seed potato marketing board.
Mr Bullock said he had been with his mother the night before her death when she had talked about “getting her hair done” the following day and of “going for more walks ... getting out and about more”.
Forensic engineer Lindsay McCormick testified that she had examined the scene of the fatal accident and found that both Mrs Bullock and the driver of the Celica, Gareth Phillips, would have a clear view of each other from 50 metres away, adding that at 30mph it would have taken 3.7 seconds to cover that distance.
Mr Phillips’ mobile phone had been seized and examined but he had not been using it at the time of the crash. The only call logged around that time was when he dialled 999 for the emergency services.
Mr Phillips was called to give evidence and agreed with Mr Leckey’s suggestion it “just seems to be that you were totally unaware of her presence” and that was the reason why he did not brake until after the impact.
Similarly to previous witnesses, Mr Phillips said he “would also like to extend my sympathies to the family as well”.
In recording Mrs Bullock’s death, Mr Leckey commented “just how sad it is that someone who had reached that great age should lose their life in the circumstances that Mrs Bullock did”.