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Sheila Karsberg inquest: Cement mixer driver tells court he thought he had run over a bin bag

Coroner hears how 79-year-old was killed in Camden Town collision

16 February, 2017 — By William McLennan

Sheila Karsberg was a regular on Hampstead Heath

THE driver of a cement mixer that killed a 79-year-old woman as she crossed the road in Camden Town has told an inquest he had not seen her and believed he had run over a bin bag.

Sheila Karsberg was killed instantly after being hit by the construction vehicle in Pratt Street as she made her way to the post office last September, St Pancras Coroner’s Court heard. David Fuller, who was driving the Cemex lorry, told the court on Tuesday: “I felt a bump. I thought I had gone over a rubbish bag. I thought I better check because there shouldn’t be a rubbish bag there. It was then I realised it was a person.”

Asked if he had seen Ms Karsberg at any point, he said: “I didn’t see nothing, I’m afraid.”

Ms Karsberg was a familiar face in Hampstead Heath, where she went for daily walks, and around the Holly Lodge estate in Highgate, where she lived. The animal-lover had been accompanied by her dog, Millie Snowflake, but took to carrying a soft toy meerkat after its death. Dozens attended a vigil at the scene of the accident in the days after her death and a tree was planted in her memory opposite her favoured bench near the Parliament Hill café in December.

PC Alex Routt, a Met police accident investigator who examined the scene, told the inquest that Mr Fuller had done everything by the book, but that the inherent “blindspots” from the cab of his vehicle – a Leyland DAF – meant that he would not have seen Ms Karsberg. He said: “As soon as she steps off the pavement she effectively becomes not visible.”

The scene of the collision and a police tent up in September

CCTV showed that Ms Karsberg left the C2 bus and crossed Pratt Street several metres ahead of the pedestrian crossing, directly in front of the cement mixer.

PC Routt said that she crossed the road after the pedestrian crossing light had turned red, adding: “She sets off on a definitive red phase. The pedestrian warning light is already turned to red and she sets off anyway. It has then gone to red for five seconds prior to the HGV moving. Although you can’t see what she has seen, the CCTV would appear to show that she doesn’t look around, look left or right – the actions you would generally expect a pedestrian to do before they cross the road.”

The court heard that Mr Fuller did not pull away until the traffic light had turned green, but was not immediately aware he had hit Ms Karsberg and stopped a hundred metres away in Delancey Street.

PC Routt said: “The reason that Mr Fuller would not have stopped immediately was the size and the weight of the lorry – with a vehicle that size you are not going to know.”

A report by Suzanne Reeves, a psychiatrist with Camden and Islington NHS’s dementia service, said that Ms Karsberg had been diagnosed with late-onset dementia and possible Alzheimer’s disease, when an assessment was carried out in March after concerns were raised over the “risk of self-neglect and cognitive decline”.

Coroner Heather Williams, who determined that Ms Karsberg died from “multiple injuries” as a result of the collision, said: “The driver did not begin to move forward until after the traffic light had turned green. I am also satisfied that the driver did not see Ms Karsberg as he began to move forward. That was unavoidable in the circumstances, because of the route that she took and the blind spots in is vision.”

 

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