Croydon tram crash inquest: Families say 'justice has been suffocated' as jurors return verdict of accidental death

·3-min read

The families of victims of the Croydon tram crash have said "justice has been suffocated" after jurors at the inquest into the disaster returned a verdict of accidental death.

The crash claimed the lives of seven people and injured 51 others when the tram derailed in south London on 9 November 2016.

In the seven-week inquest, the jury heard that the tram toppled over and spun off the tracks near the Sandilands stop after hitting a curve at 45mph (73kph), despite a 12mph (20kph) speed restriction being in place.

The driver, Alfred Dorris, was arrested but never charged following the incident.

The mother of Mark Smith, one of the victims, said “justice has been suffocated”.

Jean Smith, whose only son was 35 when he died, called the inquest into the deaths a “farce” and said she was “bitterly disappointed” not to hear evidence from management at Transport for London (TfL).

She said: "We have only heard half of the evidence and no one who could potentially have been responsible for the crash has been called as a witness."

Lawyers for the families are calling on the attorney general to apply to the High Court to grant a new inquest.

They will also be considering judicial review proceedings against south London senior coroner Sarah Ormond-Walshe, who had refused to call a number of people who the victims' families wanted to give evidence.

They include senior managers of Tram Operations Ltd - a subsidiary of FirstGroup - and TfL, plus other experts and tram drivers.

Ben Posford, a Partner at Osbornes Law who represented five of the seven families, said they are frustrated that they have been "unable to hear from any of those responsible for the systemic failings that led to this terrible and avoidable tragedy".

Speaking on behalf of the families outside Croydon Town Hall, he said: "Instead of providing long-awaited answers, the families have been put through more agony.

"Ultimately they feel that no one has been held accountable for their loved ones' deaths."

Danielle Wynne, the granddaughter of victim Philip Logan, said she was "upset and angry".

She said: "It's not an accident. Someone is to blame.

"We want lessons to be learned so that no other family has to go through this."

The coroner had told the jury of eight men and three women at Croydon Town Hall that it could deliver a verdict of unlawful killing or accident.

She sent the jury out to consider its verdict at 1.32pm on 7 July.

The crash claimed the lives of Dane Chinnery, 19; Philip Seary, 57; Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35; Robert Huxley, 63; and Philip Logan, 52, all from New Addington, and Donald Collett, 62, and Mark Smith, 35, both from Croydon.

All of the fatalities had been either fully or partially thrown out of the tram through the windows or doors when the glass shattered.

Simon French, chief inspector of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, told the inquest that Mr Dorris may have slipped into a period of "microsleep" on the stretch of track ahead of the curve.

He said extra signage could have mitigated the risk, and there were apparent "culture issues" at operator Tram Operations Ltd that meant drivers were unwilling to admit to speeding or other errors.

There was a previous incident just 10 days before the crash when a driver hit the same bend at 27mph (45kph) and nearly overturned, but it was insufficiently investigated, Mr French added.

Matthew Gregory, chief executive of FirstGroup, which owns Tram Operations Ltd, said the organisation has an "unwavering commitment to safety" and has worked with TfL to introduce improvements to all aspects of Croydon's trains.

He said: "Since the incident, we have fully engaged with all subsequent investigations, implementing recommendations that arose from them and will take into account any further learnings that may arise from the inquest."

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