Coroner’s verdict on Peak river tragedy

The scene of the tragic accident
The scene of the tragic accident

A coroner has praised the bravery of neighbours and emergency services who tried to free a man from his car after it landed upside down in the River Wye near Buxton earlier this year.

David Cox was taking his daughter Tess to school on January 24 when his Toyota Aygo left a bridle path running near to the Monsal Trail and crashed into the river.

The scene of the tragic accident

The scene of the tragic accident

Five minutes later, his wife Ruth left their home at Blackwell Mill cottages to take their son Ioan to school, but after seeing her husband’s car in the river, she too lost control and her vehicle also landed in the river upside down.

Mrs Cox and the two children were able to escape to safety but Mr Cox was trapped inside the vehicle. Local residents, Mrs Cox and emergency services tried to free him from the car and he was eventually released and taken to Stepping Hill Hospital, but sadly later died.

An inquest into Mr Cox’s death held at Chesterfield Coroner’s court today (Friday) heard the road condition couldn’t have been worse at the time of the crash with ice and compacted snow on the track.

No defects were found on either vehicle, and both drivers appeared to have been travelling slightly too fast for the conditions, the hearing was told.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Deputy Assistant Coroner for Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire, Sophie Cartwright, said: “I would wish the efforts of the family, neighbours and emergency services personnel to be commended for their courage and bravery in respect of their attempts to free David Cox.”

And offering her sympathy to Ruth Cox and the Cox family, she added: “This was a day tinged with great sadness, it was also a day where those present should be proud of the courage, bravery and resilience of the family involved.”

The statement of Ruth Cox was also read out in court, in which she said: “As I approached the viaduct I saw David’s car in the river upside down. “I slowed down to less than a walking pace. The track at this point, due to erosion, is narrow like a bottleneck. The car slid, then I was able to steer it away from the river and I thought we were going to be fine. Then without warning the car wheels slid off the edge of the track. The car seemed to stay on two wheels and in a second gravity kicked in and we toppled over.”

Explaining how she tried to get her husband free from the car, she added: “I shouted David’s name but heard nothing. I tried to open the doors but they wouldn’t open. I then got a shovel and shoved it in the passenger door and tried to lever it open. I tried to smash the window with the shovel and I thought I’d try the boot but I pressed the button and it didn’t open.”

She continued: “I thought about trying to get through the vehicle to get David but realised it was too dangerous.”

As it was a private road, the bridleway wasn’t gritted, the inquest heard. Since the accident, signs warning of blind bends, convex mirrors and five mile per hour signs have been put up along the track. A retaining wall has also been built by the Peak District National Park Authority to prevent further erosion of the river bank.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Cox’s brother John said: “David was a best friend to many including myself. He was a loving son, brother, husband and father.

“We’d like to thank everybody involved on that particular day for trying to save David. All the emergency services were superb as was some of the neighbours.”

And speaking of Mrs Cox and the two children, he added: “I can’t imagine what they were going through on that day, they did everything they could and we thank them immensely for that.

“If nothing else we’d like to hope that David’s death isn’t in vain.

“I’d hate to see something like this happening again.”

For the full story, see Thursday’s Buxton Advertiser.