Coroner rules death was driver error

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 05:00 06/03/2014

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An elderly driver whose passenger died after the car they were in hit a concrete wall possibly got her sandal stuck under the accelerator, a coroner says.

Lincoln woman Ann Philomena McCartin died of multiple organ failure at Christchurch Hospital on January 11, 2012.

The 84-year-old was involved in a car crash near Lincoln New World's car park two days earlier.

Coroner Richard McElrea's findings, released this week, say McCartin's death was from injuries received in the crash compounded by pre-existing medical conditions.

On January 9, McCartin was the front passenger in a hatchback driven by a good friend, Mary Winter Woods, who lost control of her car in Lincoln New World's car park.

McElrea said Woods, who was 76 at the time, inadvertently accelerated out of control, mounted a curb around a garden, crossed a berm and the supermarket driveway before crossing an adjoining street.

The car continued across a driveway to Plant & Food Research and hit a concrete wall.

McElrea said McCartin's death was due to high-energy impact injuries to her chest, abdomen and limbs, compounded by pre-existing vascular disease.

Woods, who was taken to hospital in an ambulance with moderate injuries, told police she "tried to move my foot across on to the brake, but it felt like it was stuck".

When asked whether there was anything on the floor that could have prevented her from doing this, Woods said: "I don't know. Maybe the mat slipped. I always seem to have to shift it back to its normal position, because it moves."

It did not cross her mind to turn the ignition off, apply the handbrake or take the vehicle out of gear.

"I am always a careful driver. My foot has never got stuck before.

"I wish it was me and not Ann," said Woods.

Sergeant Nigel Price, of Canterbury's serious crash unit, estimated the car's speed at impact was between 26kmh and 56kmh .

The crash occurred through driver error, but no criminal charges were laid.

The coroner found it was likely a sandal on Woods' right foot became stuck under the accelerator, preventing her from applying the brake.

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- The Press

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