Wirral falling branch killed pregnant driver’s baby

Damaged car Image copyright Liverpool Coroner’s Court
Image caption The large branch smashed through the car’s windscreen

The “complete failure” of a council to check for dangerous trees contributed to the death of an unborn child hit by a falling branch, an inquest heard.

Elizabeth Stear, who was 36 weeks pregnant, was driving on Arrowe Park Road, Wirral, when a branch smashed through the windscreen, hitting her in the abdomen.

Her daughter Lucia died despite being delivered by emergency Caesarean.

Wirral Borough Council said it had now implemented changes.

Mrs Stear was trapped inside her Audi A4 and could not feel her baby move after a large branch fell from a horse chestnut tree within Arrowe Country Park, Liverpool Coroner’s Court was told.

She was rescued by the emergency services and was taken by ambulance to the major trauma centre at Aintree Hospital where she had emergency surgery.

The baby was delivered with no signs of life and was transferred to Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

Despite the efforts of medical staff to resuscitate her she was pronounced dead a short time later, the inquest heard.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Elizabeth Stear was driving along Arrowe Park Road when the bough of a Horse Chestnut tree fell onto her car

Senior Coroner Andre Rebello concluded Lucia died as a result of an accident but said a number of failures by Wirral Borough Council contributed to her death.

He said there was a “complete lack of risk management for trees at risk of falling on to highways.” and the council had no policy in place for tree management.

There had been no formal inspection of trees in Arrowe Park for 13 years previously, the hearing was told.

‘Missed opportunities’

Inadequate steps had also been taken to investigate a beech tree that fell into Arrowe Park Road in January 2015, and rectify mistakes that had been made, the inquest heard.

“There were missed opportunities to prevent further serious incidents, despite staff concerns and a near-miss event taking place,” said Mr Rebello.

“There was a systemic lack of accountability and poor communication within and between departments in Wirral Borough Council,” he said.

Councillor Julie McManus, from Wirral Borough Council, said issues found as a result of the investigation following Lucia’s death had led to “substantial investment by the council”.

She said while “there are no words that could make things any better for the family”, improvements and changes have already been made.



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