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John Schmitt represents family at the inquest touching Heike Mojay-Sinclare

Articles, News | Mon 20th Sep, 2021

The inquest has received national press coverage on account of the appalling tragedy of the death and the questions it raised as to how such a death could have been allowed to happen. John was instructed by Vashti Prescott of Kidd Rapinet LLP.

Heike Mojay-Sinclare was aged just 29 when she died on 9 December 2018 due to drowning when her car became stuck in flood water at a ford on Doles Lane near Ashbourne in Derbyshire. She had been travelling from her home in Hertfordshire to stay at a Peak District cottage for a friend’s birthday celebration when she became fatefully stuck in the ford in her car.

The coroner concluded the inquest on 16 September 2021 and has ruled the death accidental.

Following this devastating accident, the road containing the ford has been closed permanently to motor vehicles. The family argued the road should have been closed long before Heike’s death, an action that was proved manifestly possible without causing significant disruption. The inquest heard there were a number of serious previous incidents on the ford, including one where a family were forced to escape out of their car’s sunroof when sinking in the ford, and a local resident living by the ford spoke of knowing personally of 30 threats to life having occurred due to vehicles becoming stranded in the ford. The local parish council and residents had lobbied the council for change, but the family argued that a depth gauge installed in the ford by the council in 2017 was neither fit for purpose nor ultimately was of any effect in preventing the fatality.

At the conclusion of the inquest, the coroner ordered a Regulation 28 Report to Prevent Future Deaths (“PFD”), something for which the family lobbied and which will provide for learning on a national level to prevent recurrence of such a death. The PFD Report has been sent to Rt Hon Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport who is under a duty to respond within 56 days.

The scope of the PFD Report will address:

  • The need for mandatory cross-agency and inter-agency information sharing as regards serious incidents and near fatalities occurring in fords in circumstances where the council claimed to have been largely unaware of these;
  • The need for depth gauges in all fords and for mandatory minimum specification to optimise their utility;
  • The need for depth gauges to fall within mandatory highways inspection requirements.

The family spoke of the profound, incalculable loss of Heike and tribute was paid to her loving, compassionate and intelligent nature. The family hope the PFD report will ensure significant change is effected to ensure high standards of road safety in fords, and that this will be part of Heike’s legacy.

To read the press coverage on this case, please click on the link below.

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