Great-grandmother, 91, died after car hit tree

Police vehicles at the scene of the tragedy near Heron's Ghyll
Police vehicles at the scene of the tragedy near Heron's Ghyll

The final moments leading to a car crash which claimed the life of a 91-year-old great-grandmother will remain a mystery, an inquest heard last week.

Barbara Woodhams was a front seat passenger in a car which inexplicably left the road and crashed into a tree.

The Volkswagen Eos was being driven by her daughter, 68-year-old Jennifer Brown.

The accident happened on the A26 near Heron’s Ghyll shortly after midday on July 3 last year.

Mrs Woodhams, a widow, had spent the weekend at her daughter’s home in Rodmell and the pair were travelling back to her own home in Beacon Road, Crowborough.

Eyewitness Richard Hayden, of Church Road, Crowborough, was a passenger in a car travelling behind the Volkswagen. He told the inquest it suddenly deviated diagonally to the right, crossed the opposite carriageway and left the road. He did not see the brake lights come on.

The vehicle narrowly missed a Ford Fiesta travelling in the opposite direction driven by Trevor Pimley, of Highlands Avenue, Ridgewood, who said he had to swerve to avoid it.

Mrs Woodhams was sadly pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Her daughter suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.

The inquest heard Mrs Brown, a churchwarden, had been driving carefully within the speed limit and had not been distracted.

She said her memories of the tragedy were vague but just before it happened a bird, or leaves blown up from the road, may have come straight towards her face. She didn’t remember anytrhing after that and told the inquest she was “devastated”.

She said: “One minute we were travelling normally and then for no apparent reason we were involved in a dreadful accident.”

Accident Investigation Officer PC Paul Banks said there was nothing mechanically wrong with her vehicle and no evidence it had braked before hitting the tree.

East Sussex Coroner Alan Craze said he totally accepted Mrs Brown’s validity and said: “This has to be unexplained. You will never know precisely how this happened.”

He recorded a conclusion of Road Traffic Accident.