A ‘popular’ teenage girl was lying in a road when she was struck by a 38 tonne lorry, an inquest heard today (November 29).
Maddie Burgess had become separated from friends at the East Hoathly Bonfire celebrations when she tragically died on the A22 on November 11 last year.
A toxicology report found she had 194mg of alcohol to every 100ml of blood – twice the drink driving limit.
The 17-year-old college student from Uckfield had been at the fireworks event in East Hoathly with a group of friends.
When walking to the fireworks event, the inquest at Eastbourne Town Hall heard someone had made a comment that upset Maddie.
Her friend Amber Weatherill said, “She was screaming and crying her eyes out and was hysterical, she was asking why she was always second best.
“She was making quite a scene.”
The court heard she then walked off and Amber went looking for her but did not see her again that night.
On November 11, 30mph speed restrictions had been put in place by the bonfire society in and around East Hoathly.
The collision happened just after the bend at The Thatched Garage at about 9.13pm.
Robert Sutton was driving a BMW northbound on the A22 behind the Tesco lorry.
His statement said, “All of a sudden the trailer on the back of the lorry jack knifed.”
He then saw something in the road he first thought was an effigy for a bonfire, “I immediately braked and swerved to avoid it.”
Dr Andrew Risbridger had also been driving behind the lorry. He said, “I saw it suddenly swerving and almost jack knifing.”
Leslie Barnett had been driving a Vauxhall Insigna, also behind the lorry. He said, “I felt a hard jolt on the passenger side.”
The court heard the lorry driver Mark Gonall had considerable experience driving large goods vehicles (LGVs).
He had just had a break after dropping off his delivery at Hailsham Tesco and was heading back to the distribution centre when the tragedy happened.
The army veteran said there was an ‘object’ in the road, “I went to take evasive action. I swerved.”
He said, “I’m devastated. I have played the incident over and over in my head, I don’t believe there is anything I could have done.”
He expressed his sympathies to the family.
Forensic collision investigator Julian Taylor conducted an in depth report into the collision.
He found the lorry had been travelling at 40mph on the dark stretch of road and Maddie had been lying down when the large vehicle struck her.
This would have made it much harder for the driver to see her than had she been standing up, Mr Taylor said.
He found Mr Gonall braked between 12 and 20 metres in front of Maddie.
“There’s a possibility that because there were so many closed roads in that area she may have thought she was still in a closed road,” he said.
If the lorry had been travelling at 30mph, it would not have stopped the collision, Mr Taylor said.
Coroner Alan Craze said, “I think it’s terribly tragic but she’d been run over, not struck. I doesn’t matter if it had been at five mph or 30, the result’s the same.”
Mr Craze concluded she died of a road traffic collision. He expressed his sympathies to the family.