Tearful minibus driver says he was 'in wrong place, at wrong time' when he fatally injured schoolgirl near Mansfield

Ashlee Rowland, aged eight, was a caring and kind little girl.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 4th May 2018, 3:38 pm
Updated Friday, 4th May 2018, 3:51 pm
Ashlee Rowland's inquest was told the driver of the minibus that hit her was blameless
Ashlee Rowland's inquest was told the driver of the minibus that hit her was blameless

The bubbly eight-year-old had been out enjoying the summer holidays last August with her younger sister when she accidently stepped out from between two vehicles, one of which was a HGV, in front of an oncoming mini bus and tragically died.

Just moments before, she had been innocently asking the HGV delivery driver about his vehicle, because it was bright pink, and told him they were looking for a cat.

An inquest into her death at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court on Thursday heard that what happened on the afternoon of August 15, 2017, on Sycamore Avenue, Glapwell, was a ‘tragic accident’ which was ‘unavoidable’.

It will be a day that will never leave the minds of her loving family, including mum Louise and dad Mark, of The Green, Glapwell, and those who came across the happy, smiley schoolgirl that afternoon.

She had been playing out in the sunshine with her younger sister, Emily, near to their home address, and had been seen sitting at the side of the road on the pavement.

Martin Barker, a lorry driver for JS Discounts and dad to two young girls himself, had parked up on the side of road on Sycamore Avenue ready to deliver some garden fencing, and got talking to Ashlee and Emily while he was waiting in his cab.

He said: “The older of the two girls - Ashlee - spoke to me and said ‘I like your pink lorry’. She was looking for a cat. I said I had not seen anything.”

A short time later, at about 3.20pm, Ashlee disappeared out of Mr Barker’s view. “I just remember one minute she was there, the next she wasn’t, he said. “It happened so quickly.”

In between the split-second of Mr Barker reaching for some paperwork in his cab, Ashlee had stepped out from between his lorry and a Honda car and into the path of a Ford Transit mini bus, driven by Craig Thomson, of a taxi service in Duckmanton.

Mr Thomson had been driving well below the 30mph speed limit, at 22mph. There were no defects on the 16-seater vehicle and the court heard he had less than one second to react.

PC Paul Moorcroft, a forensic collision investigator for Derbyshire Constabulary, said: “There is not a person on earth who would have been able to react. Formula One drivers I would say would not probably be able to react in that time.”

Recalling the collision, a tearful Mr Thomson, said: “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time - all because I was going to the shop early. If it was not me it would have been someone else.”

Attempts were made to save Ashlee but she passed away later that day in hospital from a head injury. Recording a verdict of road traffic collision, coroner Peter Nieto, said: “All in all my view is that it was a tragic accident.”