Driver didn't see man lying in the road

PUBLISHED: 12:33 31 January 2008 | UPDATED: 12:57 06 May 2010

A VISIBLY-shaken woman gave evidence at an inquest yesterday into the death of a man she had accidentally struck with her car. Kristine Lucas did not realise she had run over John Erentrauts on July 1 last year until her friend Robert Norris saw the story

A VISIBLY-shaken woman gave evidence at an inquest yesterday into the death of a man she had accidentally struck with her car.

Kristine Lucas did not realise she had run over John Erentrauts on July 1 last year until her friend Robert Norris saw the story of his death in the Herts Advertiser.

The court heard that Mr Erentrauts, aged 55, of Balfour Court, Station Road, Harpenden, had left Harpenden Rugby Club around 1am after a day spent drinking.

Mr Erentrauts, a salesman at Buttle's timber yard in St Albans for more than 24 years, was divorced and lived alone.

A friend he had spent most of the day with, Ian Price, estimated he had drunk at least 20 pints of beer during that time. Mr Price said: "John normally sunk around three or four pints an hour.", and he agreed with Coroner Dr Frances Cranfield that his friend had been drunk.

Mrs Lucas said that on that dark rainy night on July 1 last year she had been travelling home to Harpenden from Markyate at around 1am when she felt her car strike something that looked like a dark object in the road.

She swerved onto the wrong side of the road but then had to promptly return to her own side of the road because of an oncoming car.

A little further up the road she stopped to check her red Hyundai Coupé for damage before driving home.

She said: "I was a woman on my own late at night and I knew there was little point in my trying to move what I thought might have been a heavy barrel out of the way on my own. Looking back, I know I should have phoned the police because any obstruction in the road could be dangerous."

Taxi driver Mohammed Asghar had been driving towards Redbourn from Harpenden when he saw three or four cars ahead of him swerve to avoid something in the road which he thought looked like a body. He returned to the spot and called the emergency services.

An off-duty police officer who stopped to help attempted to resuscitate Mr Erentrauts until the paramedics arrived and realised he was dead.

Mr Erentrauts' family were in court to hear Mrs Lucas tell how shocked she was when Mr Norris telephoned her to say the object she had hit had been a body. She then phoned the police who interviewed her and examined her car.

Speaking directly to the family, she said: "I am so sorry for your loss. It is a terrible way to lose someone. I have spent many sleepless nights and been in a state of shock ever since."

Accident investigator Pc Edward Peachment, who inspected Mrs Lucas's car, said it showed minimal signs of damage but red paint and plastic fragments found at the scene matched the Hyundai.

His examination of the accident scene led him to believe that Mr Erentrauts was lying in the road at the time and that it would have been difficult for any driver to spot him in time to avoid hitting him.

Dr Cranfield said toxicology reports showed Mr Erentrauts was three-and-a-half times over the drink drive limit and also had amphetamine in his blood.

Pathology reports showed he had type one diabetes which was under control but also had coronary artery disease which could have caused his death at any time. Cause of death was given as multiple injuries and Dr Cranfield recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Speaking afterwards Mr Erentrauts' son Lewis, 29, said the family bore no animosity towards Mrs Lucas and would not be pursuing any legal action against her.

He revealed that the family had been trying to come to terms with his father's brother Robert being murdered as well. Youths charged with kicking him to death had just been found not guilty.

Lewis said: "Dad was a talented musician who played in many local bands - one of which had once supported The Who and Status Quo. He was a fun-loving man who was very proud of his baby grandson Alfie, my brother Lee's son."

Mr Erentrauts is also survived by his mother Dzidra, who lives in Hatfield.

Verdict: Accidental death.

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