Former Long Sutton Peele College pupil died in drain plunge tragedy

Alexandra Hills who tragically died in a crash in thick fog.
Alexandra Hills who tragically died in a crash in thick fog.
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A young woman died from head injuries when her car plunged into a drain beside the B1359 at Gedney and landed on its roof.

The road was shrouded in fog when Alexandra Leigh Hills (21) – known to friends as Alex – lost control of the vehicle on a bend, an inquest heard yesterday (Wednesday).

One man said visibility was down to one-and-a-half car lengths on the morning of the accident, October 31 last year.

Alexandra, the only child of Alan and Linda, had spent a weekend with her family and boyfriend in Dawsmere and set off just after 7.30am to drive to Lincoln’s Bishop Grosseteste University to attend a lecture.

Passing drivers tried to help after home carer Karen Warner spotted “something blue down the ditch” about an hour later.

In a statement read out at the inquest, Ms Warner said: “Something in the back of my mind made me think I should go back and take another look.”

It was Alexandra’s Ford KA.

Ms Warner phoned emergency services and two men who stopped their vehicles went to the car, but realised it was too late to help Alexandra.

They found her with her head below the water and were unable to open a car door to reach her.

Ian Brown, one of the men, said in a statement: “There was no sign of life.”

The second man, James Jackson, said in his statement it was really foggy and estimated visibility was low as a car-and-a-half’s length.

Alexandra was certified dead at the scene by an ambulance paramedic.

Dr Murray Spittal, one of the coroners for South Lincolnshire, said the post mortem examination showed Alexandra died from head injuries – and not drowning – and came to the formal conclusion that she had died as a result of a road collision.

He said, because Alexandra didn’t drown, it was unlikely she had regained consciousness.

Dr Spittal said the accident was unwitnessed and the precise details of what happened will never be known.

Earlier Dr Spittal read a statement from Alexandra’s mum, who learned about the tragedy at around 10am on the day of the accident.

Mrs Hills said she and her husband were devastated by Alexandra’s death and their lives were changed forever.

The statement continued: “As we both said, she would have made a brilliant teacher. Our life will never be the same.”

On the day Alexandra set off, Mrs Hills said she “went outside to give her a hug and to tell her to drive carefully” and added “that was the last time I saw her alive”.

A police vehicle examiner said there were no defects with Alexandra’s car that could have contributed to the accident.

Police forensic accident investigator PC Michelle Ford examined the accident scene, including tyre marks left on the road, and said Alexandra’s car had swerved from side-to-side, or fishtailed, before going into the drain with the front offside edge leading the way.

Alexandra’s family said there had been a fence at the point where Alexandra’s car left the road but it had been removed – and pointed out it had been useful, previously, for drivers to get their bearings as they negotiated the bend.

PC Ford said the fence would not have been an effective barrier to stop a vehicle entering the drain.

She said if the fence had been there, the fog would have prevented Alexandra from seeing it early enough to get her bearings.

PC Ford said: “One the day, because of the weather conditions, I don’t think it would have helped her.”

The officer said there were no advance warning signs to indicate the bend but the county council will be making highway safety improvements on the road where the accident happened, which is known locally as either Hallgate or Kingsgate.

The inquest heard the accident happened only 4.9 miles from the family’s home, a distance that could be travelled in seven-and-a-half minutes under normal conditions.

Alexandra was a former pupil of Long Sutton’s Peele Community College and she had worked part-time at the Co-op in Sutton Bridge.