'Larger than life' OAP died in crash after hitting multiple trees on road where she lived

Isobel Hughes died when her car left the A531 at the bottom of Heighley Castle Way, Madeley Heath, on Sunday, October 1
Isobel Hughes died when her car left the A531 at the bottom of Heighley Castle Way, Madeley Heath, on Sunday, October 1 -Credit:Miles Flanagan

A pensioner described as a 'larger than life character' died in a crash after losing control of her car on a road she had campaigned to make safer. Isobel Hughes' vehicle sped down an embankment and hit multiple trees as she careered through a woodland near her home in Madeley Heath.

An inquest into the death heard the 84-year-old's white Suzuki was discovered on its roof by a passerby who called an ambulance. Staffordshire Police officers found Isobel unconscious but 'gurgling and alive' in the vehicle, with a small amount of blood which they suspected was from a nosebleed.

She had suffered head injuries and was strapped upside down with the seatbelt holding her in place. Firefighters removed Isobel from the wreckage as they waited for the paramedics - including the air ambulance - to arrive.

READ: 'Fiercely independent' Isobel, 84, killed in crash on road she'd campaigned to make safer Madeley Heath pensioner Isobel Hughes had 'a cheeky smile and a sparkle in her eye'

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But she was pronounced dead at the scene near the junction between Heighley Castle Way - where she lived - and the A531 close to Bowsey Wood on the morning of October 1 last year. She had suffered a cardiac arrest.

Friends of Isobel told the inquest that she had broken her arm in 2020 and had never fully recovered. In a statement read out at the hearing, Carol Hulse, who had known Isobel’s for 15 years, said: “I knew she had nerve damage to her fingers and thumb and was taking medication for it. She was also taking medication for diabetes, which she’d said sometimes make her pass out.

“She broke her arm in five places in 2020 and never fully recovered. Isobel hated getting up before 9.30am. I believe the crash must have happened the night before she was found [September 30 2023] because she’d never get up before 9.30am.

“She once drove into a hedge whilst I was in the car and I told her she needed to sort her driving out and I refused to get in the car with her again. I don’t know why or where she’d be driving to.”

During the hearing, Isobel was described as someone who would be remembered for her bold personality and charity work. She had volunteered as a first responder and had raised thousands of pounds for the Madeley community, as well as charities including the air ambulance.

Another of Isobel’s friends, Suzanne Rigby, said in her statement: “She was a very well presented lady who was dedicated to the community and volunteered at a charity shop until her passing. She had lots of friends and enjoyed her social life.

“Isobel was a strong, intelligent and social woman. In a few days before her passing she was having nosebleeds, which she said was caused by the flu jab. She had an accident in 2020 which left her incredibly frail.

“I believe the accident happened on the night before October 1. She knows the road and the area well and she always drove extremely slowly. I have no idea how it came to happen.”

The inquest heard the single-file road Isobel was driving had a national speed limit, which means drivers can travel up to 60mph. Isobel’s speed could not be determined by the crash scene evidence, however a police collision investigator said there were no braking marks or signs of deceleration.

Area Coroner for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Daniel Howe said: “I find it probable that Isobel died on September 30 2023. I am satisfied that the collision was caused in part by driving with excessive speed. I am satisfied that the collision wasn’t intentional.

“The most likely explanation is that Isobel had a medical episode, but it is not probable because it was not recorded in the post mortem. I find that on October 1 2023, Isobel was discovered injured in a heavily damaged vehicle in the woodland near the junction between Heighley Castle Way and the A531.

“She went into cardiac arrest during treatment from the paramedics. Physical evidence shows the car entered the right-hand verge when approaching the junction, without stopping, and went down a steep embankment. My short form conclusion is a road traffic collision.”

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