Wednesday, 25 November 2015

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Medical reasons for crash unlikely, Carlisle court told

A man who crashed his car into a lorry whose driver later died is “highly unlikely” to have had a medical episode behind the wheel, doctors told a court.

Cleared: Peter Hayward

Related: Medics could have done more to help crash driver, court told

Peter Hayward, 53, of Cleator Moor, is accused of causing the death of lorry driver Craig Wood, 45, by driving without due care and attention, a charge he denies.

Mr Wood, of Crook, County Durham, died weeks after a collision on the A595 at Bothel, between Cockermouth and Wigton, in May 2012, passing away from complications from a leg injury he suffered during the crash.

Previously jurors at Carlisle Crown Court were read a statement that Mr Wood made prior to his death. In it he said Hayward’s black Volkswagen Passat “veered” in front of him and another car for “no apparent reason”.

The reason that Hayward “veered” off course is undetermined, with the Crown arguing that he was distracted. His defence is highlighting the possibility of him having a “medical episode” behind the wheel immediately before his the crash.

The jury heard evidence from Dr Christopher Derry, a consultant neurologist at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

He offered four possible explanations for a medical episode that could have happened to Hayward on May 12: an epileptic seizure, a reflex syncope, a cardiac syncope (both commonly known as fainting) or a “micro-sleep”.

In his report he ruled that an epileptic seizure was unlikely along with the possibility of a “micro-sleep”.

He also told the court how he couldn’t rule out fainting, but that would also be “unusual” in this circumstance.

An eyewitness to the crash says that he saw Hayward moments before impact with his eyes open staring forward and sitting upright in his car.

“While I can’t say it is impossible, it would be unusual. A much more typical response would be a loss of muscle tone and a slump to one side,” said Dr Derry.

He added that in his opinion it would have been unlikely that Hayward, if he had fainted, would have been able to steer around the corner prior to the crash.

When questioned by defence barrister James Leonard, Dr Derry admitted that those possibilities could not be completely ruled out.

The jury also heard from Dr Nigel Stout of Sunderland Royal Hospital, an expert in ‘blackouts’ and syncope.

He told the court that the possibility of a syncope was higher than what Dr Derry had claimed.

“Syncope while staring is quite a well recognised possibility. The motor effects of syncope can be very different. Some lose it, some maintain it even though they are unconscious,” he added.

The trial continues.


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