Coroner: Seatbelt could have saved care worker

Naomi White, who died after a car crash near Feniton Naomi White, who died after a car crash near Feniton

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
6:30 AM

A care worker from Sidford who was killed in a car crash could have survived had she been wearing a seatbelt, an inquest heard.

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Naomi Rose White, 22, died after she was flung from a Renault Clio driven by her boyfriend after it collided with an oncoming vehicle near Patteson Cross, outside Feniton, on April 18 last year.

Exeter Coroner’s Court was told that the pair were travelling home to Sidford at 9.35pm after visiting Naomi’s mother in Feniton when driver Jake Kelly hit a large puddle.

Water covered the windscreen, obscuring his vision and causing him to lose control of the car.

The Renault Clio slid sideways before hitting a Fiat Punto coming in the opposite direction and rolling violently onto its side.

The inquest heard that Naomi would have lost consciousness instantly when she was ejected from the car, and died as a result of severe head injuries.

Examining the Clio following the crash, accident investigators found signs of use, including friction burns, on the driver’s seatbelt - but no such evidence on the passenger’s side.

A statement read to the court from Miss White’s mother described how the couple were very happy together and had talked about getting married.

“Since day one it has been obvious to us that Jake has been totally distraught about what had happened,” she said. “We don’t blame Jake.”

The inquest heard evidence from police accident investigator Paul Frost who concluded that physical evidence at the scene was consistent with witness accounts of the crash.

He added: “It is my opinion that if Miss White had chosen to wear the available seatbelt it would have significantly reduced the likelihood of her sustaining the injuries which resulted in her death.”

Coroner for Exeter and Greater Devon, Dr Elizabeth Earland recorded a verdict of accidental death contributed to by neglect.

She said: “I’m satisfied that at approximately 9.37pm on April 18, on the road going towards Sidford, the vehicle in which she [Miss White] was a front seat passenger hit a bank of water and went out of control and collided with an oncoming vehicle while visibility was temporality obstructed.

“It is evident to me that if she had worn her seatbelt, she would not have suffered the injuries.”

Miss White, a care assistant at Holmesley Nursing Home in Sidmouth, was working towards an NVQ2 qualification in caring.

Following her death, relatives described her as a loving daughter, granddaughter, sister and friend, while her colleagues that added she was a pleasure to work with.

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