The father of an 18-year-old student who died crossing the road outside her school has called for greater safety measures at the site where she was hit by a car on December 4 last year.
Following the conclusion of the inquest at Lincoln into the death of Millie Taylor-Noonan, 18, of Sudbrook, on Wednesday (September 25), her father Obadiah Light said he hopes that measures will be put in place to make the area where Millie died safer for pedestrians.
Millie had left the grounds of Sir William Robertson Academy in Welbourn with her friend Laura Enright, 17, and was on her way back to school when she is said to have stepped out to cross the road without properly looking and was hit by a Mercedes driven by Paul Turner, who was heading north towards Waddington with his son's partner, Leanne Haigh, who also works at the school.
Senior Coroner for Lincolnshire Timothy Brennand concluded that evidence showed HGV driver Mr Turner was driving lawfully and according to the road conditions and a vehicle examiner found no contributing defects on the diesel vehicle. He said the post mortem found Millie’s death was due to head injuries caused by a road traffic collision and told the court that he planned to issue a prevention of future deaths report addressed to Lincolnshire County Council, the Highways Agency and the Secretary of State for Transport highlighting his concerns over the "inadequate level of traffic calming measures" and no sensible provision for the volume of pedestrians coming to and from the school in the area where Millie died.
He supported concerns by school governors and witnesses including friend Laura, Mr Turner and school bus driver Adam Walker that the tragedy could happen again unless there was better lighting, a better path and a pedestrian crossing, road markings and railings at the exit to the school. Currently there is a 30mph and school warning signs only, with a dropped kerb for pedestrians close to the exit for buses. Children walking south towards Leadenham have to cross the road to the only path opposite and school bus driver Adam Walker described the process of exiting the school as "horrible" as he had to use the entire road to turn left or he would be cutting across the pedestrian exit.
Witnesses corroborated Mr Turner's belief that he was driving under the 30mph speed limit at between 20-25mph at the time of the collision, which happened at about 3.20pm. He remembered that he was maybe only 15 metres away when Millie stepped out into his path, giving him only split seconds to react, but he immediately braked to a stop on impact.
Forensic collision investigator PC Michelle Ford said she did not think Mr Turner could have done anything to avoid the crash, agreeing that if he had swerved he could have hit Laura on the pavement or the school bus which had started to pull out of the school exit but had stopped to allow him to pass.
Millie had been resuscitated at the scene and was taken to Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham but was declared clinically brain dead the day after the collision. She had chosen to be on the organ donor register and her pancreas, liver and kidneys were donated to three recipients, for which she has been awarded posthumously by the Order of St John.
Mr Brennand said that Millie was an example of the generation that follows him and others who are far more "proactive, altruistic and far-sighted" in making this gift of life after a tragedy.
He expressed his "profound gratitude" to the family for the dignity they had shown: ""Your compassion and understanding does you credit. I can see some of the cloth from which Millie was cut."
Millie was born in Cornwall before moving to Sleaford in Lincolnshire, where she lived until she was nine years old and moved back to Cornwall with her father. Mr Light said she loved the beaches in Cornwall and showed a keen interest in environmentalism from a young age, including taking part in many beach cleaning activities. She played an active part in the community in Cornwall and had a wide circle of friends. She loved to walk and swim and took part in many after school sports activities with her friends, at Cape Cornwall School, in St Just. She moved back to Lincolnshire in 2016 to spend time with her mother.
Before she died Millie was completing her A-Levels at the Academy and was planning to go to university in Wales to study to be an environmental scientist.
Mr Turner said after the inquest: “I am pleased that the inquest process has been able to answer some of our questions and give us a great understanding of the circumstances around Millie’s death. It is clear that the stretch of road is very dangerous, and we agree wholeheartedly with the Coroner that something must be done to make it safer and to stop anyone else from getting hurt.
“Millie is a huge loss to our family, she was a caring and intelligent young woman who had a bright future in front of her. She was so passionate about the environment and even when she was very young she would be the one who reminded me about the recycling and loved working on our allotment in Cornwall. I am sure she would have carried on her environmental activities and would have gone on to make a significant contribution to helping heal the planet.
“Millie had a great life and was loved and cherished by all those that knew her, particularly her friends and neighbours growing up in Sleaford and Cornwall. We were all lucky to have had her in our lives.”
David Preston, solicitor from Leigh Day representing Mr Light said: “We are pleased that the Coroner has conducted a thorough investigation into the tragic circumstances of Millie’s death and that he was able to provide Millie’s family with answers to some of their questions. We await with interest the Coroner’s prevention of future deaths report and the responses from the Local Authority, Highways Agency and Secretary of State for Transport. We continue to investigate a civil claim for compensation on behalf of Millie’s family.”
Coun Richard Davies, executive member for highways at Lincolnshire County Council, said: "This was a tragic incident and our thoughts are with Millie's family and friends at this difficult time.
"We will, of course, consider any feedback from the coroner regarding potential safety improvements and take appropriate action."