Mother trapped in car killed on M60 after Green Flag 'refused to help'
A mother-of-four was killed when her stranded car was struck by a lorry on a motorway after a breakdown recovery company refused to help her, a court has heard.
The judge in the case criticised breakdown cover firm Green Flag after it did nothing to aid Shirley-Ann Dumbuya, 38, who was trapped in her vehicle when it broke down on the M60 motorway in Blackley, Manchester.
Her husband had called the company after she broke down on chevrons between lane one and the slip road at junction 20, on 21 January last year.
Manchester Crown Court heard he was told assistance could not be offered "unless the vehicle was on the hard shoulder or off the motorway".
Her car was struck by a skip lorry driven by John Bowers, 35, who failed to avoid her stationary silver Kia Ceed with its hazard lights flashing.
Bowers, from Sefton Road, Preston, who had pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving, was given a six-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months, on Tuesday.
He was banned from driving for three years and had his licence endorsed.
Judge Anthony Cross QC criticised Green Flag's handling of the incident, and called for an inquiry by the assistant chief constable of Greater Manchester Police.
“Green Flag should take it upon themselves to ring 999 to help the person who was obviously panicking, wondering whether to stay or get out of the vehicle, and worrying about the other cars on the motorway," he said.
"This was an accident waiting to happen.
“It’s obvious to me that whilst society has lost someone who not only was going to make a valuable contribution, but someone who had already done so by just being a good person.”
The court heard that Bowers' lorry collided with the Kia a few minutes after it broke down, after the drivers of 19 cars travelling in lane one had noticed the vehicle and passed it safely.
Emergency services arrived a short time later and cut Mrs Dumbuya from her vehicle, but despite the best efforts of medical staff, she was declared dead at the scene.
Mark Kellet, prosecuting, said Mrs Dumbuya left her home in Moston at about 8.35am in her car, which was said to be in "good working order".
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At 8:42am, her husband Peniel Dumbuya received a call from his wife in which she told him the car had stopped on the motorway.
He told her to put her emergency lights on and get out of the car if she could while he called Green Flag, who told him they couldn't help, the court heard.
Mr Dumbuya tried to call his wife but couldn’t get an answer, so decided to drive her route in the hope of finding and helping her.
Mr Kellet said: “As he approached junction 20, he could see a silver car on a grass verge and emergency vehicles. His wife had been in a fatal incident.”
Bowers was travelling 15mph under the speed limit at 55mph and had an unobstructed view of the Kia for about 150m to 175m, the court heard.
A joint expert report included the comment that his "error" was that he did not appreciate that the Kia Ceed was stationary.
Bowers, who had been working at Horwich-based skip firm J Dickinsons and Sons for nine weeks at the time of the incident, was not using his phone at the time, nor was he under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Mrs Dumbuya's daughter, Alice Dumbuya, said her family's lives have been "shattered forever".
She said her mother was "very family orientated" and "loved by so many people".
She said: “You never think it will happen until it happens to you. I lost my best friend.
“My mother will never see her children grow up, children get married and have grandchildren. She was so looking forward to that as she spoke about this.
"The milestones in our lives will never be the same without my mum being there to appreciate it, this will sadden me forever.”
The court heard Bowers had previous convictions for driving with excess alcohol, driving without due care and attention, and failing to stop.
A Green Flag spokesperson told Yahoo News UK: “Green Flag was very sorry to hear of this tragic accident.
"We were not part of the court proceedings but will be reviewing how we handled this case.
"If a customer contacts us to say their car has broken down on the live lane of a motorway it is our policy, which follows National Highways guidance, that the call handler asks them to immediately call 999 for emergency assistance so the police can offer specific health and safety guidance to the driver directly.
"Green Flag contacts National Highways so the motorway can be closed to enable recovery of the vehicle.”