Tragedy of St Albans schoolgirl hit by car when walking home

THE DEATH of a 15-year-old girl from St Albans who was hit by a car on her way home from school could not have been avoided, an inquest heard today. Eleanor Austin, a Year 11 pupil at Parmiter s School in Garston, died on Monday, November 9, last year fol

THE DEATH of a 15-year-old girl from St Albans who was hit by a car on her way home from school could not have been avoided, an inquest heard today.

Eleanor Austin, a Year 11 pupil at Parmiter's School in Garston, died on Monday, November 9, last year following an accident three days earlier at the pedestrian crossing along the A405 in Bricket Wood near the Chequers Lane junction.

Eleanor, who lived in Turnberry Drive, and her sister were standing by the pedestrian crossing at around 3.45pm when Eleanor stepped into the road while the lights were still green. Seconds later, she was struck by a silver Peugeot which was travelling in the right hand lane.

At today's inquest, the driver of the car Salvatore Di-Fonzo, recalled seeing the two girls "playing or something" at the pedestrian crossing and that Eleanor had her back to the traffic.


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He added: "All of a sudden, one of the girls walked out onto the road. I braked immediately and swerved to the right but there was nothing I could do. If I could have avoided her, I would have."

Neil Dunn, who was driving on the nearside lane of the dual carriageway when the accident happened, said that Mr Di-Fonzo was about 20 or 30 metres in front of him when Eleanor ran out into the road.

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He said that it all happened within a split second: "It was almost as if they had both decided to make their minds up to run across the road. Eleanor looked at her sister as if they were both about to go but at the last minute the sister decided to stay where she was."

Eleanor, who apparently hit her head on the car's windscreen, was initially taken to St Mary's Hospital in London before being transferred to Charing Cross Hospital where she died of severe traumatic brain injury.

Pc Ian Breacher, who was one of the first officers to arrive on the scene, said that driving conditions on the day were fine and that the pedestrian crossing traffic lights were working perfectly.

His colleague Pc Alan Kemp, a road traffic collision investigator, estimated that Mr Di-Fonzo was travelling somewhere in the region of 42 and 52 mph on the 50mph road, adding that it was "most likely to the lower end of that scale".

He said that as Mr Di-Fonzo's car was 20 metres away when Eleanor crossed, there was nothing that he could have done to avoid hitting her.

He added: "There was quite simply insufficient time for the driver to react and avoid the collision. Mr Di-Fonzo has not done anything unreasonable"

Coroner for Herts Graham Danbury, who recorded a verdict of accidental death, said: "Clearly Eleanor must have thought that she was going to make it across the road and simply didn't properly access the traffic that was coming from her right."

"Many of us think it is safe enough to cross when the light is red and this was what Eleanor was doing. Tragically, she wrongly read the situation.

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