Time has not healed the pain, says heartbroken father

The father of a Mansfield couple tragically killed when a bus mounted a pavement in Ingoldmells says time has not healed his pain ten years on.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 15th April 2014, 7:00 am

Neal Cooper’s daughter, Paula (30), and her husband, Richard Rhodes (33), who lived on Ladybrook estate, were among five holidaymakers who were killed when the bus ploughed into them in the east coast resort Easter Sunday, 2004.

In the months and years that followed, Neal (67), of Cranborne Road, Mansfield, fought a tireless campaign which saw new safety measures installed on the busy tourist thoroughfare of Sea Lane, where the tragedy happened.

Said Neal: “A lot of people from Mansfield who would have been nine or ten at the time go on day trips to Ingoldmells.

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“There is a memorial on Sea Lane but a lot of people probably do not know what it is for - as a father when something like that happens you want it remembered.

“It was such a horrific event.”

Ten years on from the awful events of Easter 2004, Ingoldmells is much more developed, so the grieving Mansfield dad takes some comfort in the knowledge that new safety measures are in place.

The Rhodes Safety Campaign helped secure a 20mph speed limit and extra pedestrian crossings with backing from Mansfield MP Alan Meale, the Chad and the hundreds who signed a petition and donated money to help fund the work.

“The overall effect has been to delay the grieving process,” said Neal.

“We have travelled far and wide for road safety functions, all at our own expense.

“But if we had accepted it for what it was and got on with the grieving we would feel better now than we actually do - in our particular case this is never going to go away.”

As well as the Rhodes, a 37-year-old woman from Leicester and her two infant sons lost their lives that day.

The bus driver, Stephen Topasna (51), of Bridge Street, Louth, was jailed for five years after admitting causing death by dangerous driving.

Neal, who was with his daughter and son-in-law on that day with his wife, Annette (65), was first on the scene and admits it is something he will never forget.

“I have had attempts at counselling but if something really gets inside your head like this you can never get over it.

“This is a bad time of year for us. There are so many flowers at the cemetery from their friends and work colleagues.

“There are so many we have brought some of them home with us to put in pots.”