Two healthcare workers from Milton Keynes killed in head-on collision with bus, coroner hears

A coroner has ruled two healthcare workers died as a result of a tragic accident on a flooded road.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 3:29 pm

Marie Abbott and Tycoon Murungweni were travelling the A4421 when their car struck a large patch of standing water caused by torrential rain.

The Vauxhall Insignia car went spinning across the road and collided head-on with a single-decker bus which was travelling in the opposite direction.

Despite the efforts of paramedics, including a medical team from the air ambulance, Mr Murungweni, aged 42, and 34-year-old Mrs Abbott were both declared dead at the scene.

Marie Abbott

Today (Tuesday), a joint inquest into their deaths heard the two mental healthcare assistants had just passed through the village of Newton Purcell in Oxfordshire when the crash happened at 8.40pm on November 14 last year.

The coroner heard that the UK had been battling severe weather in the hours leading up to the crash, with torrential rain drenching the area around where the crash took place, overwhelming drainage systems.

Witness statements from paramedics and police officers who rushed to the scene described seeing standing water spread all the way across the A4421.

Oxfordshire Coroner Darren Salter read out a statement from bus driver Michael Hirst who described the terrifying moments before the crash as he saw the Vauxhall sliding towards his bus.

Tycoon Murungweni

Mr Hirst said: "I saw some headlights coming in the opposite direction. Then all of a sudden the headlights jerked towards the verge and then the car jerked back towards the near-side.

"I presumed they were pulling into a layby. But then the car was sliding towards me, crossing from its side of the road into mine. I was full on the brakes but there was nowhere to go.

"The car collided with the front of the bus."

Mr Hirst escaped with only minor injuries and his two passengers, both students, were uninjured.

Police constable Perry Knight, who arrived only minutes after the crash, told the court: "The road was flooded from grass verge to grass verge. The water was flowing down the carriageway like a river. The water level was up to an inch deep at the crown of the road."

Coroner Mr Salter heard from Police Forensic Collision Investigator Murray Maclean who told the hearing at Oxford Coroners Court that Mr Murungweni, who was driving, would only have had a split second to react to the standing water in front of him.

Pc Maclean said: "It would have been unlikely that the driver would have identified the standing water was a hazard as soon as it was in the headlights' beam.

"He could have only had at most 1.3 seconds and he would likely have been closer than that before he realised the standing water was a hazard. It normally takes at least 0.75 seconds to perceive something as a hazard.

"He almost certainly drove into the standing water before he managed to react."

PC Maclean explained that although the wet road conditions made it impossible to determine the exact speed the Vauxhall Insignia was travelling, there was no suggestion Mr Murungweni, of Fryday Street on Leadenhall, had been travelling above the 50mph speed limit.

He explained that aquaplaning normally begins to occur at around 50mph, however, only a very slight difference in speed and the tread of the tyres on the car could have made the driver lose control.

The coroner thoroughly questioned Paul Wilson from Oxfordshire County Council's highway maintenance scheme who explained the location had never previously had a flooding related accident and this was the first time the area had flooded.

Police investigator John Croxton added that although some alterations had been made to the drainage in the area shortly before the crash, the drainage was flowing freely but had been overwhelmed by the torrential rain.

The coroner also heard that tragically a call had been made to the police warning them about the flooded road only half an hour before the crash. However, in that time the council's highway department had not been able to scramble a team to the location.

Under questioning from Mr Murungweni's family, Mr Wilson confirmed the council would monitor the area in the future and ensure the drainage was able to keep the carriageway free from standing water.

Concluding the inquest Mr Salter said: "It was certainly a tragic incident and I can only offer my condolences to both families. We can never bring them back but I hope the inquest process has revealed some context about what happened.

"What I can take from this is that this was not an accident blackspot. In quite a short period of time, the standing water got significantly worse and it appears that they were driving through at the point were it appears it was at its worst.

"The basic cause of this incident was the water on the road and that caused the car to aquaplane. Mr Murungweni had very little opportunity to react to the water.

"Speed was likely to be a factor but that is not to say he was exceeding the speed limit.

"I think all I can say is that water on the carriageway was the primary cause, however, it is possible that his speed was too great for him to retain control of the vehicle."

The coroner ruled both Mr Murungweni and Mrs Abbott, who lived on Fullers Slade, had died in a road traffic collision.

"We are slowly coming to terms with the sudden loss of a loving and loved husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend," Mr Murungweni's family said at the inquest.

"Tycoon touched so many lives, anyone who knew Tycoon knew that he was very loving, supportive, motivating and fun loving.

"He was very hard working and loved spending time with his family and friends.

"He also spent his time in the gym exercising, watching football (his team was Liverpool) and playing with his children Tyra (10 years old) and Thandeka (three years old).

"We will cherish the wonderful moments we created with him.

"Though we are pained at the sudden loss, we are grateful to God for the time we were able to spend with him."

Mrs Abbott's family said she touched the hearts of everyone who met her.

"Marie was tragically killed in a car accident," the Abbott family said in a statement.

"Marie was a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter and a granddaughter.

"She lived her short life to the full. She loved ‘hoop’, swimming, trampolining and spinning, dancing, Tiktok and Xbox with her three children. She packed so much into her short life. Visiting friends and family, always ready for a party.

"She will be sorely missed by her family and friends. She touched the hearts of everyone she came in contact with."