Tragic accident in school car park

Christopher Alan Preston. (S)
Christopher Alan Preston. (S)

The death of an East Marton man in a Barnoldswick school car park has been concluded as accidental.

Christopher Alan Preston (78) died after being hit by a reversing Volkswagen Golf in the car park of St Joseph’s RC Primary School in West Close Road on November 16th, 2015.

The inquest at Burnley Coroner’s Court heard that Mr Preston, know as Alan, had been knocked over at a very slow speed by the car and had fractured his skull suffering a subdural haemorrhage. He died later the same day in the Royal Preston Hospital.

Mr Preston, a man with a distinguished career in the shipping industry, and later a magistrate, Rotarian and Skipton Castle guide, was described in court by his wife Jennifer, joined by her three sons, Simon, Jason and Timothy, as a man who would help anyone.

He had been helping deliver a Life Education Project trailer at the school on November 16th with his good friend and next door neighbour Jeffrey Ashworth.

On arrival at the school at between 4pm and 4-15pm, the pair discovered that the car park was full and that cars would need to be moved to get the mobile classroom trailer into the car park.

One of those to move their car was school administrator Anne Marie Beech who, the inquest heard, was ready to leave having finished for the day.

She met Mr Ashworth and Mr Preston inside the school reception along with school caretaker Stephen Demaine and deputy headteacher Kathryn Henderson.

But when the five had gone out to discuss which cars needed moving, Mrs Beech told the inquest Mr Preston was gazing into space.

A tearful Mrs Beech told the inquest: “Where as the others had gone looking at various parts of the car park, he just stood gazing towards perhaps where the trailer would park.

“I performed the normal checks I do with mirrors and I looked all around me before proceeding to reverse from the parking space.

“I can’t have gone more than eight feet or something like that and all I can remember hearing was a bump.

“I heard the other shouting ‘stop’ but I don’t know what came first.

“I remember somebody shouting to move forward but I don’t know if I did or not.

“I was totally confused because I couldn’t understand what I had hit.

“When I got out Mr Preston was lying on the floor. I didn’t see him at all.”

Mr Demaine told the inquest “it all happened in one action” and that he saw Mr Preston’s feet under the back wheel of the car, and as it moved forward again, he toppled over hitting his head. He rang for an ambulance immediately.

PC Jason Colclough, from the police’s accident investigation team, said there was nothing wrong with the vehicle, the light was good and described the accident as “a push over collision, if you will” as it happened at such slow speed.

He said he could not answer why Mrs Beech did not see Mr Preston behind the car but equally he could not answer why Mr Preston did not move from behind the car, especially knowing the car was being moved for the trailer.

East Lancashire Coroner Richard Taylor said: “This is a terrible case for the family and a terrible incident for Mrs Beech herself and for those who witnessed it.”