Mystery of why elderly man “stepped in front” of lorry

Date: Saturday 18th February 2006

AN open verdict was recorded at the inquest into the death of an elderly Penrith man suffering from depression and anxiety who “stepped out in front” of a wagon.

Jimmy Richardson, aged 76, of Frenchfield Way, Penrith, suffered multiple injuries after being hit by an 18-tonne Volvo bulk feed tipper lorry being driven by Kenneth Jones, of Temple Sowerby.

Mr. Jones, who works at Langwathby mill, was driving a Pye Bibby Agriculture vehicle back to the site from Carlisle when the incident occurred on the A686 at Carleton Village shortly before 11am on 19th July last year.

“I was travelling at about 35 miles an hour,” said Mr. Jones in interview with the police, five miles an hour under the 40mph speed limit for the area. As he was going through Carleton Village he said he saw two men walking side by side on the pavement.

“They just seemed to be walking straight ahead, then one of them stepped out. The one on the inside, nearer the verge, looked back and rushed into the road. The man on the outside just kept walking forward,” said Mr. Jones.

“It just happened that quickly. There’s no way I could have avoided the collision,” he added.

The inquest, which was held at Penrith on Tuesday, was told that Stainmore-born Mr. Richardson, a retired maintenance fitter who formerly worked for British Gypsum, had problems with anxiety and depression.

Samantha Nicholson, a community psychiatric nurse, said he had suffered from depression for some time. Mr. Richardson was taking antidepressants and an increase in dosage had been recommended to try and improve his general mood.

He had denied having plans to harm himself, but said that sometimes he wished he could just fall asleep and not wake up again. He was quite physically fit and went on regular walks.

It was while he was on a walk with his community support worker, Gordon Cook, that Mr. Richardson died. Mr. Cook told the inquest that Mr. Richardson said “cheerio” to his wife, Freda, before they set off.

“As far as I was concerned I was in the middle of a conversation with him and then I heard a bang. It just happened so fast,” said Mr. Cook.

The inquest also heard from other witnesses who gave accounts of what they saw and PC Kevin French, who is based with the collision investigation unit at police headquarters.

However, David Osborne, coroner for north east Cumbria, said he found the circumstances somewhat baffling. He said he concurred completely with the opinion of PC French, who, in his conclusion, said it was simply difficult to understand why Mr. Richardson had stepped off the pavement.

Mr. Osborne said the lorry driver had no opportunity to take any avoiding action. While Mr. Richardson had been suffering from anxiety and depression for some considerable time, nothing he did or said indicated he was actively contemplating taking his own life.

In recording an open verdict, Mr. Osborne said: “It is impossible to understand why he was unable to appreciate the lorry was there.”