Green Flag has been condemned by a judge for refusing to help a woman who was left stranded on a motorway and later killed in a car crash because she had not broken down on the hard shoulder.
Shirley-Ann Dumbuya, from Moston, Manchester, pleaded with her husband to contact the roadside assistance provider after her car cut out on the M60 near the city in Jan 2021.
The 38-year-old was trapped between lane one of the clockwise carriageway and a set of hatch marks bordering a slip road at junction 20.
But despite the mother-of-four panicking and screaming for help, staff at Green Flag declined to attend the scene - saying a recovery truck or mechanic would be dispatched only if her vehicle was parked on the hard shoulder.
Dumbuya had her hazard lights on when she broke down during rush hour, but a DAF skip wagon weighing about 18 tonnes ploughed into the back of her vehicle when the driver failed to realise that her Kia was stationary.
The nursing student, who was on her way to sit an exam as part of her finals, suffered multiple injuries in the impact and died shortly afterwards.
Peniel Dumbaya, her husband, dashed to the scene following his wife’s SOS call, only to find the wreckage of her car on an embankment and police waiting to tell him she had been killed.
It emerged she had only used her husband’s car that day as her own vehicle had a faulty windscreen wiper. She was awarded a posthumous degree following her death.
At Manchester Crown Court, Judge Anthony Cross accused Green Flag of “systemic failings” and called for police to investigate whether more could have been done to rescue Dumbaya. The lorry driver, John Bowers, 33, admitted causing death by careless driving.
The judge also questioned why the organisation had not reported the breakdown to police or encouraged the family to do so.
“This tragic accident was the result of an accumulation of errors starting after Mrs Dumbuya could not get to the hard shoulder,” he said.
“She sensibly called Green Flag, as she and her family had sensibly paid for their assistance, and yet she was told that they could not help. The brutal reality is that she had a dreadful conundrum whether to get out of the car or stay in.
“It seems that this is a systemic failure.”
The court heard that at least 19 other drivers spotted the stranded Kia with its hazard lights flashing and changed lanes to avoid it, but Bowers failed to spot it and crashed into the rear.
Dashcam analysis revealed that Bowers, who had a previous conviction for drink-driving and driving without due care and attention from 2016, was travelling at 55mph and had an unobstructed view of the Kia from about 150m to 175m (492ft to 574ft) away.
However, an accident report concluded he did not appreciate that the Kia was stationary. He initially denied wrongdoing, but eventually pleaded guilty ahead of his trial 18 months later.
Dumbaya’s eldest daughter Alice, 19, wept as she gave a statement, telling the hearing: “Our lives have been shattered by something that was so avoidable.
“After my father received the phone call, he drove to the M60 on the route he knew she would take, only to find police, fire and ambulance crews, and looked to his left in disbelief as he recognised the registration number of the Kia on the embankment.
“A police officer asked him why he was there, only for him to answer: ‘That is my wife.’ He was standing there helplessly and in disbelief seeing that mum had already passed away. You can only imagine how that must have felt, to see your wife there, still in the car at the time and you can only imagine the pain he must have been going through.”
Bowers, of Bamber Bridge, Lancashire, was sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for 12 months, and was banned from driving for three years.