A police officer made a ‘series of errors’ on the night he lost control of his patrol car at more than 100mph leading to a collision which left two people dead.
PC David Fields, aged 45, of Halfway, and Lorraine Stephenson, 61, of Beighton, both died at the scene of the crash which happened on the A57 Mosborough Bypass on Christmas Day, 2017 at around 8.20pm.
An inquest into both deaths at Sheffield Coroners’ Court last week heard that at the time of the collision, PC Fields had been responding to a 999 call about a street brawl involving up to 15 people in which there was thought to be a threat to life.
Evidence from expert collision investigators showed that PC Fields had been driving his BMW patrol car at 103mph when he lost control and collided with an oncoming vehicle being driven by Kevin Stephenson.
The jury recorded a narrative conclusion and said the collision was as a result of a combindation of factors - including wet driving conditions caused by heavy rainfall throughout the day and accumulations of water on the road.
They found on the balance of probabilities it was more likely than not that the police vehicle ‘aquaplaned’ and lost control on one of the pools of water.
Now, the Independent Office for Police Conduct has found that PC Fields ‘did not appropriately adjust the manner of his driving or his speed to take into account the adverse weather conditions, which was not in line with his training or the local and national policies and procedures.’
In a statement, the IOPC said: “During our investigation we became aware that less than a week before the collision some officers, including PC Fields, had raised concerns about a loss of traction by some vehicles (different models) during a recent pursuit in snow.
“We found that the force had received similar concerns from other officers. Since that time, SYP had taken steps to address this; making improvements to the vehicles, and putting in place safety measures, including warning drivers about excessive speed in adverse weather conditions.
“An inspection of the car PC Fields was driving that night found no mechanical faults that either caused or contributed to the collision.
“We acknowledge that PC Fields is unable to account for his actions that evening, or the handling of the car.
“However, as far as the evidence indicates, we found that PC Fields did not appropriately adjust the manner of his driving or his speed to take into account the adverse weather conditions, which was not in line with his training or the local and national policies and procedures.”
Mrs Stephenson was the front seat passenger in her Citroen C3, which was being driven by her husband Kevin.
The IOPC said there were no further matters or potential proceedings for the IOPC to consider.
Miranda Biddle, IOPC regional director, said: “Our findings in this case are clear, dispassionate and objective, as they should be. But this does not mean we cannot be empathetic in understanding the tragic circumstances of this incident – not least because of when it happened – and the impact that this has had on all those affected.
“It is evident that PC Fields made a series of errors that evening; he did not adjust his driving for the poor weather conditions, continued driving at speed, and it ended in the loss of Mrs Stephenson’s life and his own.
“Whilst we can offer concise evidence, and transparency as to what happened that day, I recognise that our conclusions will do little to ease the suffering of both grieving families. Our thoughts and sympathies remain with them.”
In a statement released after the inquest concluded, South Yorkshire Police’s Assistant Chief Constable David Hartley, said: “I would like to pass on the condolences of myself and all of South Yorkshire Police to both of the families affected by the tragic events of Christmas Day 2017.
“We will now consider the full findings of the coroner to ensure any recommendations are thoroughly considered and appropriately acted upon.”