A mother and her daughter were killed when a rotting tree was uprooted and fell on their car, an inquest has found.
Elaine Reason, 56, and Grace, 16, died when the mature beech tree crushed their Land Rover Freelander in November 2019.
Gloucestershire Coroner’s Court heard the tragedy happened at 10.15pm on 21 November 2019 at Stanway Hill, near Winchcombe in the Cotswolds.
Mrs Reason was driving on the B4077 with Grace in the passenger seat when the tree, which was on land owned by Stanway Estate trustees, uprooted and crushed the car in medium winds.
The Winchcombe couple were pronounced dead at the scene after suffering multiple injuries.
The court heard Gloucestershire Police launched an inquiry into the management of the tree and hired an independent expert.
The tree underwent a visual inspection in 2013 and an ultrasonic test was carried out to examine the internal rot which found it to be within the ‘acceptable’ range and did not cause any concern.
It was inspected again in 2017 with no overall change in condition, but due to its risky location close to the road, annual inspections were recommended.
Gloucestershire Deputy Coroner Roland Wooderson said tree construction consultant Simon Cox found no evidence of annual inspections carried out in 2018 or 2019.
Reading from the report, Mr Wooderson said: “The roots of the tree failed due to extensive root decay caused by a common root fungus and these roots could not support the tree.
“That’s why the tree fell. Mr. Cox believes that the 2018 heatwave accelerated the tree’s decline.”
The coroner said the tree was showing “visible signs of decay”, adding: “Mr Cox believes the tree has shown signs of distress and could have failed a few years earlier.
“If the recommendation of an annual inspection were in place, Mr. Cox believes the tree would have been identified in 2018 or 2019 as being felled or heavily pruned to prevent it from falling.”
The court heard that the police were questioning two people in connection with the investigation, but took no further action. Neither the Health and Safety Executive.
Mr. Wooderson recorded conclusions that Grace and her mother died as a result of an accident.
“The evidence indicates that Ms Reason died when a tree fell and hit the motor vehicle she was driving,” he said.
“The reasonable conclusion is accidental death.
Grace died as a result of a fallen tree hitting a motor vehicle in which she was a passenger.
“The sad conclusion is that of an accidental death.”
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/23/mum-and-daughter-killed-when-rotting-tree-crushed-their-car-16880056/ Mother and daughter killed when 'rotting' tree crushed their car