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Monday, 22 September 2014

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Mum calls for probe into crash in Cumbria which killed son

A grieving mother whose firefighter son died after his car hit a damaged bridge parapet has asked police to investigate the tragedy afresh.

Russell Long photo
Russell Long

Pauline Smith’s 37-year-old son Russell Long, of Wigton, died after his Audi struck a damaged part of Howath Bridge on the B5307 near Kirkbride.

In the late night accident, in September last year, his car’s nearside wheels strayed on to a grass verge before mounting the broken, low lying bridge parapet, effectively propelling the car into the air. It landed upside down in the River Wampool, where Mr Long was found the following morning. At the time of the collision, he was travelling at just 22mph, an inquest heard.

Mrs Smith has now handed a file of information over to Cumbria Police in the hope that the case can be investigated with a view to finding evidence of a potential offence of corporate manslaughter, she said.

Mr Long’s family claim that if a missing cornerstone on the bridge had been present his car would have simply bounced back on to the road.

In May, Cumbria County Council workmen began erecting a safety barrier at the bridge on the recommendation of engineers which came after the tragedy.

Mrs Smith said: “I’ve put a case together and handed over a file to the police.

“I want them to investigate this as a potential case of corporate manslaughter. I have to take this forward and if they [the police] can satisfy me that there isn’t a case I’ll have to accept it but I just want justice for my son.”

During the inquest, Mr Long’s family said they were aware that there had been other accidents at the bridge in the past.

Coroner David Roberts, who concluded the tragedy was an accident, said he would write to the county council’s highways department to urge that they take action to prevent a similar crash. At the time, a council spokesman said: “The approach wall where the tragic incident took place does appear to have a cornerstone missing.

“But this was not deemed a structural fault in the last inspection or any previous inspections. We cannot find any records of any safety concerns being raised to the county council.”

Police confirmed information passed on by Mrs Smith was being assessed but no decision on whether to formally investigate a possible offence has been made.

A council spokesman said: “We’re aware that information has been passed on to the police and should they decide to investigate we’ll fully comply with any investigation.”

A devoted father, Mr Long was a part-time firefighter and worked as an engineer at Innovia in Wigton.

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