Katelyn Dawson inquest: Quantity surveyor 'could not have stopped safely' after passing out before crash which killed teenage girl at Yorkshire bus stop

A quantity surveyor who crashed into a bus stop and killed a teenage girl after he fainted at the wheel ‘could not have safely stopped’ after he began to feel unwell.

Richard Brooke, 57, gave evidence as a witness on the fourth day of the inquest at Bradford Coroner’s Court into the death of Katelyn Dawson, 15, in Huddersfield in January 2018.

The teenager had been waiting for a bus to Shelley College when Brooke’s BMW collided with the shelter on Wakefield Road, leaving her with an unsurvivable brain injury. Another girl and a woman were seriously hurt.

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Brooke, a quantity surveyor from Fenay Bridge, was never charged in relation to the incident after the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that there was no realistic prospect of conviction because he had suffered a medical episode at the wheel.

Talented dancer Katelyn Dawson was 15 when she was hit and killed by a carTalented dancer Katelyn Dawson was 15 when she was hit and killed by a car
Talented dancer Katelyn Dawson was 15 when she was hit and killed by a car

Brooke told the hearing that he had been returning from dropping his son off at school on the morning of the crash, and though he had been suffering from flu-like symptoms including a wheezy chest, felt able to drive and planned to work from home for the rest of the day.

He said it was only as he passed a church close to the collision scene that he took a turn for the worse, and began to feel sick and dizzy before his vision clouded and his body ‘fell forward’.

He has no recollection of the crash and regained consciousness shortly after the impact.

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The inquest was told that Brooke’s GP had diagnosed him with a respiratory infection on December 19, around three weeks previously, and prescribed him antibiotics. Brooke had interpreted the doctor’s advice as to only start taking the tablets if he felt worse, which he did around two days before the collision and he began the course.

However, his medical history included an episode when he had fainted in Huddersfield town centre in 1985, and a more recent illness in 2009 when he had suffered a ‘dizzy spell’ at his home and been diagnosed with pneumonia. Brooke said he did not believe these past episodes were relevant to his decision to drive that day, and added that in 2018 the GP had not diagnosed pneumonia. The GP in 2009 had noted down the dizziness as a ‘faint’, but Brooke said it had not involved him losing consciousness.

The inquest had already heard from two other drivers who had been on Wakefield Road and witnessed Brooke’s BMW ‘drifting’ between lanes and ‘shooting’ through a red light at speed before he veered from the right hand lane into the left and struck the bus stop.

Brooke said he did not recall any of these actions and that his collapse had happened in a ‘matter of seconds’ giving him no chance to pull over or perform an emergency stop.

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He said he had decided to stop further down the road at a petrol station but had passed out before reaching it.

Ending his evidence, Brooke confirmed that he had never fainted at the wheel before and that he had not been advised by his GP not to drive, nor would he had driven his son to school if he felt seriously ill.

A leading road safety expert called as a witness, Nick Lloyd, said that in his opinion, it would have been ‘unreasonable’ for Brooke to stop once he was past the traffic lights, as there was a pedestrian guard rail and central reservation and to mount them at speed would have been dangerous. He concluded that there was ‘no time for a safe slowing procedure’.

Katelyn’s parents, school caretaker Colin and teaching assistant Angela Dawson, attended the inquest, having already appealed the CPS’s decision not to proceed with criminal charges against Brooke.

They have expressed their dissatisfaction with the West Yorkshire Police investigation and also hired a private investigator to conduct their own enquiries.

The inquest continues.

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