Man died after being struck by Fiat 500 while walking home from North Yorkshire pub almost 40 years after surviving similar collision as a child

A 45-year-old man who overcame serious injuries after being hit by a car as a child died when he was struck by a Fiat 500 while walking home from a pub almost 40 years later.

Simon Gill's mother Margaret told an inquest at County Hall in Northallerton on Friday that her son was an 'active, athletic' child until the devastating accident as he got off a school bus outside the family farm in Stillingfleet, near York, in 1983.

Mr Gill had to learn to walk, talk and write again and suffered long-term mobility problems, but recovered to lead a 'life he loved' until his death on the evening of October 16 last year.

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Mr Gill was a regular at The Three Cups in his home village of Stamford Bridge and was struck by a Fiat 500 driven by local woman Amber Jordan after he left the pub to walk home in the dark.

Simon Gill

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The inquest was told that Mr Gill had suffered a fall outside the pub the previous week and had to be driven home by the landlord, and was recovering from a knee injury which may have impeded his balance.

Miss Jordan was absolved of blame for the collision on the A166 as she drove to meet her boyfriend in York, as police found Mr Gill was likely to have been crouching or bent over at the moment of impact, leading to Miss Jordan to mistake him for a dog as she swerved to avoid him.

A receipt from The Three Cups proved he had drunk six pints of Guinness and eaten a 'substanstial' meal from arriving at the pub that afternoon, and an autopsy found his blood alcohol reading was 167mg, significantly over the drink drive limit, yet assistant coroner for North Yorkshire John Broadbridge said it could not be said for sure that he was drunk as a swaying gait witnessed by another driver could have been caused by his pre-existing injuries.

A statement by Mrs Gill read to the hearing described how she could not believe 'lightning had struck twice' when she heard of her son's death in similar circumstances to his childhood accident. In both collisions he sustained a serious head injury. After the 1983 accident when he was just eight years old, Mr Gill also broke his femur and lost his spleen, and spent the next 10 years being treated. He did not recognise his sister Victoria until 12 weeks after the crash, which happened after he had won races in a school sports day.

However doctors were 'astounded' by his progress and he returned to mainstream education, leaving Fulford School in 1993 and taking a horticulture course at Bishop Burton College before working for a plant nursery. He used a tickertape device to communicate with his teachers. He had been left with one leg shorter than the other and an 'unsteady' gait but was otherwise well.

Mrs Gill added that she and her husband David decided to sell their farm in 1997, when it became clear Simon would not be able to run it himself, and the family moved to Stamford Bridge, where he lived independently in a bungalow.

The keen gardener cut grass for his neighbours, cleared vegetation along the River Derwent and was well-known in the village, where his regular routine involved visits to the shop, cafes and pub.

Mrs Gill said: "He was a creature of habit but he was very contented and outgoing. He loved life. He was all keyed up for Christmas and planning his shopping."

Driver Richard Dowson came forward following a police appeal when he realised he had helped Mr Gill after finding him lying in the road near The Three Cups on October 9. Mr Gill was conscious and said his leg had given way and he had fallen, but was slurring his words and appeared drunk. He was unable to give his address to Mr Dowson and was eventually assisted by publican John Dunn, who drove him home.

Mr Dunn said Mr Gill was a regular customer who always walked to and from the pub as he could not drive, but that he advised him to carry a torch with him as his walk took him across a footpath and an old railway viaduct that were not lit.

A village resident. Gerald Turley, saw him shortly before the fatal collision and recognised him, and said he seemed to be drunk as he was swaying as he walked.

Giving evidence, Miss Jordan said that she was travelling at around 45-50mph on the national speed limit road when she struck Mr Gill, whom she did not see before the impact. He was not using a nearby pedestrian crossing at the time and was wearing dark clothing. She described how he had 'appeared suddenly' in pitch black conditions.

The first witness to come across the scene, Alex McLeod, narrowly avoided striking Miss Jordan herself and found her 'hysterical' standing over the body of Mr Gill. He testified that he could smell alcohol on Mr Gill as he attempted to help him. Mr Gill was pronounced dead at the scene and an autopsy concluded it would have been instantaneous.

Traffic Constable Steven Gardner from North Yorkshire Police investigated the collision and found that Mr Gill had struck the front offside of the Fiat 500, suggesting a glancing blow rather than a head-on impact, as there was no damage to the bonnet or windscreen as would have been expected if he was upright.

"It is unlikely any driver would have expected to see a pedestrian in that location, and so the reaction time was greatly reduced. He seems to have been crouching or leaning over, but not lying down as there were no crush injuries, so he was not run over. He could have been getting up after a fall.

"The Fiat was there to be seen with headlights displayed."

TC Gardner added that a Land Rover Discovery whose driver was witnessed 'impatiently' driving around the scene by mounting the grass verge may have disturbed some of Mr Gill's belongings in the process. The driver was never identified.

He said he did not think a guard rail on the nearest pedestrian crossing had played a part in the incident and should not be extended, as in his view pedestrians always 'find the shortest route' around such safety features. North Yorkshire County Council have since installed warning signs at the spot.

"He was very close to the vehicle and the swerve could even have occurred after the collision. I have no issues with Miss Jordan's speed and it would have been the same result with any driver."

Recording a conclusion of death in a road traffic accident, Mr Broadbridge said: "I have to take with some circumspection any suggestion that he was drunk. It is difficult to say whether he was drunk but undoubtedly it might have had an adverse effect on him.

"I cannot ignore the incident the week before, when his knee injury had caused his leg to give way. We can speculate about the injury, drink, a fall or that he was rushing because he had misjudged the traffic, but I hold no firm view.

"He was not fully upright and it was a very dark night. I accept there was poor visibility and I attach no blame to Miss Jordan. There was nothing she could have done."