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Man died after bus collision near Hunstanton, inquest hears

An 88-year-old man died after his car collided with a bus near Hunstanton, an inquest held in Norwich on Friday has heard.

The inquest, held at Norfolk Coroner’s Court, heard that Alan Walden, of Hunstanton, had been driving along the A149 Old Hunstanton Road in the Cromer direction on December 2, 2019.

The inquest was told that his car veered into the lane of a Lynx bus, which was travelling in the opposite direction, and the two vehicles collided. Mr Walden was pronounced dead at the scene.

Inquest report (23323495)
Inquest report (23323495)

A statement from Mr Walden’s son David Walden was read to the court. He said his father, a retired farm worker, had been driving the Suzuki 4x4 he was driving on the day of collision for around five years.

“His driving was generally slow and safe, especially through Old Hunstanton. He was a very careful driver,” he said.

He told the court he had experienced his father’s driving in the summer of last year which gave him “no cause for concern”.

David Walden said his father used the route from Hunstanton to Ringstead about twice weekly to walk his dog. He said he believes it was unlikely the dog would have caused a distraction.

“She would often lay down in the back of the car, she would not move about,” he added.

“Sadly the dog was also killed in the collision.”

Mr Walden paid tribute to his father as a “well-known and loved local character”, who was “kind and thoughtful” and “loved the countryside”.

“He was a loving father and granddad,” he added.

“No one will forget his laugh, his smile and his unwavering happy spirit.”

The inquest also heard from a motorist who was driving behind Mr Walden prior to the collision, at about 1.20pm, Colin Veenes.

He said Mr Walden’s vehicle was driving slowly at first “as though looking for something”, so he kept his distance.

Mr Veenes said he was “concerned” when he noticed that Mr Walden’s car picked up speed and did not slow down on the approach to the humpback bridge.

The court was told that Mr Veenes saw Mr Walden’s vehicle swerving on to the near-side grass verge, before correcting itself and then crossing into the other lane in a diagonal direction, straight into the oncoming bus.

Mark Goodman, who was driving the bus, said he had slowed down on his approach to the bridge, from the opposite direction, when he saw a green car driving towards him.

“I drove as far to the left as I could,” he said.

Mr Goodman said he heard the impact of the collision, which left him shaken.

Shaun Baker, a paramedic who attended the scene, said in a statement read to the court that he carried out an examination of Mr Walden upon arrival and “recognised that death had occurred”.

PC Graeme Brooks, who completed a forensic collision investigation report, said that there were no defects of either vehicle which were likely to have contributed to the cause of the collision.

In a statement read to the court, PC Brooks added that there was no evidence that Mr Walden’s vehicle had been braking prior to the crash.

He said it was not thought his mobile phone, which was in his trouser pocket, had been a distraction.

PC Brooks said there had been nine people on the bus at the time of the accident – eight of whom sustained minor injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to a broken arm.

And a post-mortem report by Dr Laszlo Igali found there were no drugs or alcohol in Mr Walden’s system.

Area coroner for Norfolk Yvonne Blake said “nobody knows” why his car went across the road towards the bus.

She said medical episodes can sometimes cause accidents such as this, but there was no evidence of this at post mortem.

“It may well be they could not find that because of the trauma,” Ms Blake added.

She gave a short-form conclusion that Mr Walden died as a result of a road traffic collision.

Ms Blake offered her condolences to the family and said: “It must have been a great shock to you.”

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