Seatbelt error led to deaths

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An inquest heard that a horror crash which claimed the lives of two generations of a family could have been prevented.

Coroner Michael Oakley claimed that had passengers in the back of a car travelling to Malton Bacon Factory been wearing seatbelts, then the collision on the B1248 near Wharram-le-Street in November may not have proved fatal.

Front seat passenger Konrad Bartczak, 18, and rear seat passenger Ryszard Orlowski, 47, both from Hull, were among five Malton Bacon Factory employees travelling in a Ford Focus driven by Iwona Bartczak, 40, also from Hull, when it collided with a Citroen Relay van at around 6.10am on November 27. Three died as a result of the crash.

An inquest at Scarborough Town Hall yesterday heard that the Ford Focus was attempting to overtake a slow-moving heavy goods vehicle on the B1248 near Wharram-le-Street and while travelling on the wrong side of the road collided with the Citroen.

Keith Skinner, driver of the Citroen, told the inquest that the crash left him fearing he was going to die.

He said: “I was driving from my home in Pickering to the bakery I own in Hull. The journey was no different to any other morning.

“As I approached the pinnacle of the hill at Wharram-le-Street a car came out from behind what looked like a four-wheel drive and on to my side of the road.

“I braked and swung my vehicle left to try and avoid it.

“It was the only evasive action I could have taken.

“I could instantly smell burning as soon as our two vehicles collided. I thought I was going to die in the vehicle.”

Witness Damian Zienski, one of the two rear seat passengers to survive the crash, told the inquest: “Iwona started to overtake a lorry halfway up the hill, then I saw headlights.

“Ryszard swore in Polish and someone was shouting ‘brake’. Then there was the impact.”

The other surviving passenger in the Ford Focus, Maksymillian Lebiest, also gave evidence to the court by way of a written statement.

“Iwona was not a good driver. Her driving was chaotic and erratic and she sometimes overtook on hills,” he said.

“I was sometimes scared and frightened when travelling with her.”

Mr Zienski revealed at the inquest that Mr Orlowski was only a passenger in the car as a result of a stroke of grave misfortune.

“We normally travelled without Ryszard. He was only in the car with us because other drivers were off work or on different shifts to him.”

Mr Zienski also admitted that he had unfastened his seatbelt minutes prior to the collision.

Collision investigation officer PC David Taylor, from North Yorkshire Police, told the court that damage to the backs of both the driver and passenger seats was “consistent with an unrestrained member hitting it”.

He said: “The collision could have been survivable. There was no damage to the car’s footwells, pedals or dashboard. The front seats were damaged from the back, not from the front.

“The unrestrained occupants in the rear compounded their [the front seat passengers’] injuries.”

A post mortem revealed that all three died as a result of multiple injuries, principally a ruptured heart and lungs in the case of Iwona Bartczak and a fractured skull and injuries to the brain of Konrad Bartczak.

Coroner Michael Oakley said: “There is clear evidence that as a result of Iwona Bartczak’s driving, a collision has taken place with Mr Skinner who was driving on the normal side of the road and tried to take avoiding action.

“The back seat passengers in the car were clearly unrestrained and certainly caused some of the injuries to the people in the front.”

Mr Oakley concluded accidental death.

He also acknowledged the actions of two witnesses, Adrian Potts and Christopher Strong, who helped Mr Skinner, Mr Zienski and Mr Orlowski to safety prior to the crashed vehicles exploding and being engulfed in flames.

“Mr Potts and Mr Strong should be commended for the actions they took at the

scene. They were extremely brave.”