Inquest told passenger seat belts could have saved woman and son

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A mother and son who were killed in a head-on collision as they made their way to work in Malton could have survived had their passengers been wearing seat belts, an inquest heard.

The hearing in Scarborough was told yesterday that Iwona Bartczak, 40, was a “chaotic and erratic” driver and this may have contributed to her own death and the deaths of her son, Konrad Bartczak, 18, and Ryszard Orlowski, 47, early on November 27 last year. Witnesses who rushed to the scene have been praised for their bravery in pulling survivors from the debris as a fire quickly engulfed the two vehicles.

Mrs Bartczak, of Hull, was driving her Ford Focus along the B1248 Wolds Road to the Karro Food Group-owned Malton Bacon Factory, when the collision occurred at 6.10am. Also in the vehicle were fellow bacon factory workers Maksymillian Lebiest and Damian Zienski.

Mrs Bartczak, a Polish immigrant, had been trying to overtake a slow-moving heavy goods vehicle near Wharram-le-Street when she collided with a Citroen Relay, driven by Keith Skinner. Mr Skinner, from Pickering, said that following the crash he immediately smelled burning and realised that both his van and the other car were alight.

“At that point I thought for a minute I was going to die in the vehicle, that it was going to set on fire,” he said.

In a statement, Mr Lebiest, who had been sat behind Mrs Bartczak, said he remembered Ryszard shouting “brake, brake” in the moments before the crash, but added that he was often frightened by Mrs Bartczak’s driving.

His statement read: “Iwona was not a good driver. She was a chaotic and erratic driver and she often overtook vehicles when she couldn’t see ahead. I often found myself scared of her driving.”

But Traffic Constable David Taylor believes there could have been no fatalities if everyone in the vehicle had been wearing seat belts, as the majority of damage was caused by the unrestrained “human projectiles” in the rear seats.

A verdict of accident death was recorded on all three people.