Mother and teenage daughter killed as wood left to rot in heatwave fell and smashed their car, investigation hears | UK News

Written by Javed Iqbal

A mother and daughter were killed when a tree left to decay after a heatwave fell on their car, an investigation has heard.

Elaine Reason, 56, and Grace, 16, died when the mature beech smashed the Land Rover Freelander.

The ‘extensive’ deterioration of the tree was exacerbated by heat wave in 2018one of the hottest summers ever, with temperatures peaking at 35.3 C (95.5 F).

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Mrs Reason was driving with her daughter in the front passenger seat of the B4077 at Stanway Hill, near Winchcombe in the Cotswolds, when the tree tore up with a gust of wind.

They both suffered several injuries and were pronounced dead at the scene of the tragedy, which happened at. 22.15 on 21st November 2019, heard Gloucester Coroner’s Court.

In a statement released at the time, relatives said mother and daughter had “touched many hearts and would remain with us and others forever”.

Gloucestershire Police commissioned an independent expert during an investigation into the management of the tree located on land owned by Stanway Estate administrators.

A visual inspection in 2013 and ultrasound tests to detect internal decay showed that it was within the “acceptable range”.

Another study in 2017 found no “overall change” – but annual inspections were recommended due to the tree’s proximity to the road, considered high risk.

However, no evidence was found that any annual inspections were completed in 2018 or the following year.

According to a report by tree culture consultant, Simon Cox, the tree roots failed due to extensive decay caused by a common root fungus.

This meant that the roots could not support the tree and led to it toppling over, the study heard.

Reading the report, Gloucestershire Coroner assistant Roland Wooderson said: “Mr Cox is of the opinion that the heat wave in 2018 accelerated the decline of the tree.”

The coroner also pointed to visible signs of decay.

He added: “Mr Cox is of the opinion that the tree had shown signs of distress and could have failed for a number of years earlier.

“If the recommendation for annual inspection was in place, Mr. Cox is of the opinion that in 2018 or 2019 the tree would have been identified as requiring felling or vigorous pruning to prevent it from tipping over.”

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Police questioned two people during the investigation, but did not take any further action – nor did the watchdog Health and Safety Executive.

Sir. Wooderson recorded a sentence of unintentional death for both Mrs. Reason and her daughter.

“It is clear from the evidence that Mrs Reason died when a tree fell and hit the motor vehicle she was driving in,” he said.

“Grace died as a result of injuries when a tree overturned and hit a motor vehicle in which she was a passenger.”

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Javed Iqbal

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