Wife speaks of devastation over accident which killed husband after inquest into his death

The wife of a granddad who died days after he was struck by a car after a day out at a Sunderland match has led tributes to him at the close of his inquest.

By Fiona Thompson
Thursday, 4th March 2021, 4:49 pm

He had surgery to a severe head injury, but pathologist Dr Nigel Cooper told the hearing at Newcastle Civic Centre it had been “unsurvivable”.

The 57-year-old had spent the day with family, watching the Sunderland game against Southend Utd and visiting bars.

A photo shared by Northumbria Police following the death of Craig Whitfield, 57, who was a much-loved family man.

The driver, who had another man in his car at the time, told police he had not seen Craig and had no time to react.

Collision investigator Pc Ian Hall said CCTV footage pieced together what happened on the road, which has a series of bends, inclines and declines.

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The officer said the driver may have been dazzled by the lights of an oncoming car on the road and as Craig was wearing dark clothing, the contrast could have meant he may not have been, especially as it started to rain.

But when assistant coroner Karin Welsh asked if the driver’s explanation he had “simply hadn’t seen Craig at all” was “plausible” he replied: “If I’m being honest, no, I believe due to where the collision occurred on the passenger side of the vehicle, a pedestrian would have been seen at some point by the driver.”

However, Pc Hall, who said the car had been driving just above the 30mph speed limit, went on to explain the reaction times for a driver are one to two seconds, with a vehicle likely to travel between 13 to 26 metres in that time.

Ms Welsh went on to clarify: “The driver ought to have seen Craig, but effectively, by the time he had, it was really would have been too late for him to take avoiding action.”

The Pc also told the hearing: "While I’m no medical expert, Craig appeared to be unsteady on his feet, and then there’s a combination of fatigue, tiredness and alcohol which would account for his unsteadiness.”

He added the conditions and circumstances may have led Craig to think he had more time to cross the road after another vehicle passed.

Ms Welsh, who said the inquiry into the collision had been “complex” recorded a conclusion Craig’s death had been an accident.

Following the hearing, Craig’s wife Yvonne paid tribute to her husband, a warehouseman who had worked at Asda, Visage and the Co-op, with four children, seven grandchildren and another on the way.

More than 600 people attended the Sunderland AFC fan's funeral.

She said: “He was a hardworking family man, he loved and adored them, and he was very well-liked.

"He was a fantastic man and we are devastated, beyond devastated, by what happened, it’s been absolutely terrible.

"But there is no one to blame, it’s the explanation we already knew.”

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