Tree collapse which killed Pontefract grandmother ‘not caused by individual failings’

Elaine Davison. PIC: Ross Parry
Elaine Davison. PIC: Ross Parry

No individuals were at fault leading up to the death of a grandmother who died after being impaled by a tree branch during high winds in Wakefield, a jury inquest ruled.

Elaine Davison, of Pontefract, suffered fatal injuries when she was pierced through the chest by a 13ft branch on Aberford Road, in Wakefield, on November 11, 2010.

On the eighth day of the inquest into Mrs Davison’s death at Wakefield Coroner’s Court, the 11-member jury returned a narrative verdict following a day-and-a-half of deliberations.

The foreman of the jury read the statement aloud in court.

He said: “We have not found any individual failings or omissions which caused or contributed to the failure of the tree on the night of November 11, 2010.

“We have not identified any defects in the evolving systems that were operating at the time of the incident.”

Mrs Davison, 55, had been to visit her daughter in hospital with her husband Edward, who was driving the couple’s Vauxhall Zafira, when the car was struck by a falling tree outside St Peter’s Church.

She died in hospital and a post mortem report later confirmed that Mrs Davison died of an abdominal haemorrhage.

During the inquest, the court heard that the tree in question was earmarked twice for removal, once in 1999 and ten years later - just a year before the tragedy occurred.

However, on both occasions its removal was deemed “non-urgent”

The jury’s verdict added that the tree failed “due to the high winds and hidden decay.”

Mrs Davison’s husband Edward spoke briefly after the jury returned its verdict, saying he hopes “lessons have been learned” following the tragedy.

Flanked by his family, Mr Davison said: “I would like to say how proud I am of my family.

“It has been difficult for us all reliving the events of that tragic night but I could not have got through the last seven years without their love and support.

“Having heard all the evidence I just hope lessons have been learned and processes can be put in place so that this doesn’t happen to any other family.”

Wakefield Council’s chief executive Merran McRae said: “We understand the effect this tragic accident has had on Mr Davison and his family and our sincerest sympathies go out to them all.

“The jury has recognised that this was caused by exceptional high winds and a tree, which despite several competent assessments had hidden decay that could not reasonably be identfied.

“It has been acknowledged that if there had been any concern for safety, the tree would have been felled immediately.”