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Man's death leads to call for crossing in Leek

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: April 30, 2014

By Post & Times reporter

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A coroner is calling for council chiefs to look at installing a pedestrian crossing and better lighting on a main road in Leek after the death of a pensioner.

Harold Henshall was crossing Church Street following an evening church service on February 17 last year when he was knocked down by a car.

The driver of the vehicle told an inquest in Hartshill yesterday, Tuesday, that he didn’t spot the 86-year-old until it was too late.

The retired college lecturer and father-of-two of Beggars Lane, Leek, suffered serious injuries to his head, ribs and shoulder blades and died seven weeks later in hospital on March 27.

Now Assistant Coroner, David James, has said he will write to Staffordshire County Council to request an investigation into the provision of a pedestrian crossing and street lamps on the road.

It comes ahead of a meeting of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council planners tomorrow, Thursday, to discuss the shelving of proposals to close off the right hand turn into nearby St Edward Street, and the provision of a crossing, originally agreed as part of Sainsbury’s redevelopment of the Churnet Works.

Mr James said: “I am considering making a report to the local authority to ask them to consider the position of the pedestrian crossing as church users, who it is fair to say are mostly elderly, are inevitably going to cross at the nearest point.

“And I will make an enquiry as to whether a review of lighting in this area should be carried out as I’m mindful that there is a discrepancy in the number of lights on each side of the road.”

His concerns were echoed by former Leek town mayor, Pam Wood. Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Wood said she now hoped that the county council would make sure a crossing was erected.

She said: “The new road scheme meant we would get a new crossing. However this has not yet been provided. Now the coroner agrees that one is required.

“We now need assurances from the county council that they will provide a crossing in this location. We do not want any more lives lost.”

In a statement read at the inquest, Mr Henshall’s widow, Irene Hensall, said: “I went with Harold to the St Edward’s the Confessor Church in Leek for a joint evening service.

“At 7.30pm the service ended and I stayed in the church talking to friends.

“We were due to get a lift with the minister who was parked on Market Place. He got himself ready and started to walk to the car. A few minutes after he left someone came and told me he had had an accident. I went outside and saw him lying on the road. He had blood pouring from his head and the emergency services were there.”

Mr Henshall was around 120 metres from the nearest pedestrian crossing and 50 metres from a pedestrian refuge.

Driver John Hulme witnessed the accident from his van. He said: “I saw an elderly gentleman around three feet from the curb and there was a car coming towards me from the opposite direction.

“As I drew level with the man I realised the car hadn’t seen him and I slowed down. That area is very dark.

“When the car hit the man it scooped him off his feet and he hit the windscreen before he slid down onto the floor.”

Mr Hulme called the emergency services who rushed Mr Henshall to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire. Collision investigators from Staffordshire Police found that there was no suggestion driver, Robert Probyn, of Rough Close, was speeding when he hit Mr Henshall.

No criminal charges were brought against him. Speaking at the inquest, Mr Probyn, said: “I’m just so, so sorry that it was me who is responsible, that it was me who was driving the vehicle.”

Giving a conclusion of death following a road traffic collision, Mr James, said: “He was going to the car park across the road which I suspect is the nearest car park available to the church. He chose not to go 120 metres down the steep slope to the pedestrian crossing to back up 120 metres on the other side. He walked slowly, he was assisted by a stick, although he was fit for an 86-year-old man.

“He chose to cross where he couldn’t have seen Mr Probyn’s vehicle.”

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