Soldier’s death was accidental rules coroner

A LACK of street lighting in Clevedon did not contribute to the death of a soldier on Christmas Day, a coroner has ruled.

Edward Heal died following an accident in Kenn Road in the early hours of December 25 when he was walking home from a night out.

Between midnight and 5am the street lights in the area are switched off as part of a North Somerset Council scheme to save money and energy.

During an inquest into the 19-year-old’s death, held at Flax Bourton Coroners Court yesterday (Thurs), it was heard he had been out drinking with friends to celebrate Christmas Eve before he died.

Edward, who was a trooper in the Kings Royal Hussars and was due to travel to Afghanistan in March, left The Bristol Inn in Chapel Hill at just before 1am on Christmas Day to walk home to Butterfield Park. When he reached Kenn Road, just across the roundabout from Moor Lane, is when the accident happened.

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At the time, Janet and John Scammell were driving home from midnight mass at St John’s Church. They pulled into Kenn Road, travelling away from the town centre, and slowed to allow an oncoming vehicle to pass them near some parked cars.

As they slowed, they spotted what they thought was a black sack in the road only to realise it was someone dressed in dark clothing, curled up in the road.

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They tried to warn the approaching car, being driven by Trevor Argent, but were unable to stop it before it drove over Edward and dragged him for about five feet.

The Mazda estate had only been travelling at about 15mph and Mr Argent immediately braked after feeling a bump. Despite this, Edward suffered an ‘unsurvivable’ head injury and died at the scene.

It is not clear why Edward was led in the road but a post mortem revealed he had drank enough alcohol that evening to make him almost three times the legal drink drive limit.

Following Edward’s death, family and friends began a campaign to urge the council to switch the street lights back on in Clevedon and a petition gathered almost 900 signatures against the switch-off.

At the time, the council said any decision to turn off street lights had been ‘carefully considered’

During the inquest, accident investigator PC Mark Stedman said the glare of headlights from the facing car would ultimately have left Edward in a pool of darkness, which is why Mr Argent did not see him.

He also revealed that in the South West, in 11 fatal incidents which have involved the victim lying in the road, 10 of them had been in a location where there had been street lighting.

Concluding the inquest, deputy assistant coroner Terence Moore ruled Edward’s death was an accident and said he had no grounds to write to the council regarding the street lighting. He said: “The evidence here does not suggest the street lighting was in anyway a factor.”

Following the inquest, Edward’s father, Roger Heal, said: “It is really dark down there.

“If the street lights had been on I still think it would’ve made a massive difference.

“Edward was a smashing lad. He was on the verge of having a fantastic career.”

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