Coughing fit led to teacher dying in 9mph crash

Tracey Askham. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Tracey Askham. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
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A driver who lost control of his car before crushing a teacher underneath her Mini as she loaded her shopping in a supermarket car park had suffered a coughing fit moments before impact, an inquest heard.

Secondary school teacher Tracey Askham, 47, became trapped underneath her Mini Cooper after it was hit by a Suzuki Vitara driven by 60-year-old Frank Sellers.

She suffered a cardiac arrest, serious crush injuries, bleeding to her lungs and damage to her brain and died on August 28, last year, seven days after the incident at the Morrisons store in Idle, Bradford.

The inquest into the death of the mother-of-four heard yesterday that Mr Sellers told police in interview that he had been suffering from a cough for three weeks and had suffered a coughing fit as he entered the supermarket car park.

The hearing in Bradford was told he had been driving to get a McDonald’s when he turned right into the car park and hit both kerbs before colliding with the Mini and pushing it on top of Mrs Askham.

Mr Sellers told officers: “I was coughing and coughing and I wasn’t aware of anything until the car was at a standstill.

“The window was up and I looked up and saw a man coming across and I saw him waving his hands.

“Then I was thinking ‘what 
am I doing? Where am I?’ I 
realised I wasn’t in the place I should be. I then realised what had happened and what I’d 
done.”

Police estimate that Mr Sellers was driving at about 9mph.

The inquest heard that Mrs Askham’s head remained free from the car and she was calling for help.

Stephen Cunningham, a forklift driver and the only eyewitness to the accident, told the coroner’s court: “I was facing my car when I heard the bang.

“The bang came from a kerbed area at the entrance of the car park. I looked over my right shoulder and the four-wheel drive was bouncing over the kerbed area.

“It just carried on travelling forwards then into the front of the Mini. I could see the lady stood at the back of the car.

“When the four-wheel drive hit the Mini she just went down. Both cars were still moving and 
it was shoving Mrs Askham with it.”

He added: “She was just calling for somebody to get the car off her. She was conscious at first.

“I put my hands against the car to try and ease the weight of it. I was shouting as loud as I could.”

Mr Cunningham called for help and approached a member of staff at Morrisons to call the emergency services.

When Mr Cunningham approached Mr Sellers he asked him what he had done.

Mr Cunningham added: “I don’t think he was even aware. He was shocked, he put his hands up and said ‘what have I done?’”

While waiting for the emergency services, Mrs Askham lost consciousness.

Mr Cunningham said: “She’d gone quiet. I knelt down and brushed her hair away from her face. She was blue and she was gasping.”

Recording a narrative verdict, coroner Roger Whittaker said: “As evidence has unfolded before me I have come to realise exactly what had happened and why.

“Mr Sellers did have a coughing fit, it did cause him to black out and I am satisfied that he could have done nothing.”

Mr Sellers extended his deepest sympathies to Mrs Askham’s family, who said they were too upset to speak to the media following the inquest.