Mystery over fuel spill that claimed local woman’s life

By Scott Jamison

A SOUTH Belfast woman died after the car she was travelling in skidded on diesel spilt from a lorry just moments earlier, the inquest into her death has heard.

Mary Wasson from the Upper Lisburn Road was the front seat passenger in a Renault Espace people carrier being driven by her husband, Dr Ciaran Wasson, on the Ballygawley to Omagh road on October 4, 2009.

The inquest – held at the Old Town Hall building in Belfast on Monday – heard how the car hit fuel that had been leaked from a lorry which had passed the accident scene only moments before, causing the car to go out of control and collide with an oncoming BMW. Mrs Wasson died although she had been wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision, the inquest heard.

The 50-year-old retired nurse, whose last job was as a receptionist in her husband’s surgery in West Belfast, died from multiple injuries sustained in the crash.

The inquest heard how the diesel leakage that caused the accident had come from a Scania lorry owned by Co Fermanagh haulage firm Loane Transport, which, when examined by Stephen Quinn from Forensic Science Northern Ireland, was discovered to have a rupture in a pipe connecting the vehicle’s two large fuel tanks.

“It seemed as if someone had tried to prise it off and caused damage to it using something like a screwdriver and then tried to pull it off but to no success,” Mr Quinn said.

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“I’m not sure why it had been interfered with. It was as if someone had been trying to manipulate it but just ended up damaging it.”

Lorry driver Steven Rothwell said the first he knew of the leakage was when he had been warned by a passing motorist. He stopped and shut off the flow of diesel to the lorry’s second fuel tank before starting his journey towards Larne to catch a ferry again.

But he said his company rang him back within a few moments to inform him there had been an incident, resulting in him stopping at a nearby industrial estate. Mr Rothwell added that the lorry was just over a year old and had no history of any failings.

Both Mr Rothwell and Loane Transport director Blakely Loane said they had no idea what had caused the damage to the pipe, however both claimed there was a possibility something had “came up off the road” and triggered the breakage.

PSNI Sergeant Kitt Kerr informed the coroner a file was sent to the director of public prosecutions to pursue a charge against Mr Rothwell of causing death by dangerous driving but the DPP advised no prosecution.

Dr Wasson told the court he knew the road well, as the couple regularly used it to travel to Ballybofey in Co Donegal. He recalled the road being damp and seeing another car in front skidding slightly before righting itself. However, Dr Wasson said that was his last memory of the accident.

Mr Sherrard said the “emotional ramifications of a death in tragic and sudden circumstances” continued and that Mrs Wasson’s death was a “reminder to all of us that life can be sniffed out so suddenly”.

Speaking after the inquest, a representative of Mr Wasson thanked the coroner and also those who attempted to help him and his late wife at the site of the crash.

 

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