Inquest hears how St Albans man is hit by taxi while walking in the road

AN INQUEST has heard that a taxi driver was unlikely to have been able to do anything to avoid hitting a man who was walking in the middle of an unlit road following a night out drinking with his friends.

Mohammed Malik was travelling along the Hatfield Road in Smallford at around 2am on October 31 when he struck 29-year-old intoxicated Luke Moloney of Clarence Road, St Albans, who was pronounced dead in hospital a short while after the accident.

Fellow taxi driver Russell Joyce was travelling towards Hatfield and saw Mr Moloney standing on the other side of the road moments before passing Mr Malik who was travelling in the opposite direction and he then heard the collision behind him.

Mr Joyce told Herts Coroner Edward Thomas that he didn’t think he would have been able to stop had Mr Moloney been on his side of the road.

When ambulance crews arrived at the scene a number of people were carrying out CPR on Mr Moloney and paramedics continued working on him during the journey to the QE2 Hospital in Welwyn Garden City but his life could not be saved.

A post mortem revealed a number of fractures and internal injuries, the most critical of which was a fracture of the cervical spine which Mr Thomas said would have caused him to have been fallen unconscious instantly.

Blood test results showed that Mr Moloney had 282 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood� – more than three-and-a-half times the legal driving limit – and Mr Thomas said this would have dramatically impaired his judgement.

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Crash investigator Pc Matthew Hollingsworth explained that Mr Moloney had been wearing dark clothing and that the stretch of road where the accident happened, near to Notcutts Garden Centre, was without street lighting as maintenance work was being carried out.

Pc Hollingsworth spoke to the friends Mr Moloney had been out with who told him that he had enjoyed the night out in Hatfield and had drunk a number of different beers before being asked to leave the venue by the bouncer.

Forensic collision investigator Pc Ian Marsh explained that Mr Moloney had been carried along on the bonnet of the vehicle before being thrown off when it came to a halt, and said that the speed of the taxi could have only been calculated it he had been thrown forward on impact.

But Pc Marsh said that the damage caused to the car windscreen and front offside of the vehicle indicated that it was going at a speed of between 30mph and 45mph. Furthermore, had the car been driven in excess of 37mph it is likely that Mr Moloney would have travelled over the roof.

He said Mr Moloney was probably only visible to Mr Malik, who had been driving with dipped beams having just passed another vehicle, from a distance of 18 metres which Mr Marsh explained takes just one second to complete at a speed of 40mph.

He continued: “Generally it can take between 0.6 seconds and 1.5 seconds to react. If you take the lowest reaction time that only leaves 0.4 seconds to stop. To stop at 40mph takes about 23 metres and adding the reaction time on top of that would make it between 34 and 50 metres.”

Pc Marsh added: “Given all the circumstances, what Luke was wearing, the dark background, the lack of lighting and the speed of the vehicle, it is unlikely that Mr Malik could have done anything but hit him and with Luke having the amount of alcohol he had he would not have been aware how fast and how close the car was to him.”

Mr Thomas recorded a verdict of accidental death and said: “It was such a tragedy that he didn’t use the footpath. I’ve sadly had a number of cases where pedestrians have been in the road, often having had too much to drink. I don’t think they appreciate how difficult it is for drivers to pick them up.

“The fact of the matter is the lights were being maintained and were not on, but it is incumbent upon the driver and pedestrian to use the public highway as they find it. I’m sure if he hadn’t had so much to drink he would have been sensible and used the pavement.”

Mr Thomas said Mr Moloney, who had just bought a pony and trap which he took out daily, was described by his family as a very sociable person with a great sense of humour who had lots of friends.