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Father near Stafford who was killed in Saudi road crash warned wife of motoring dangers

By Kerry.Ashdown  |  Posted: July 04, 2014

Jim Cooper

Jim Cooper

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Mechanical engineer Jim Cooper, of High Onn, near Church Eaton, had worked for GEC Alstom during his career and was director general of Durma Power Plant at the time of his death.

But mystery surrounds the exact cause of the collision, which is believed to involve six or seven vehicles, and the exact location where Dr Cooper met his death remains unknown - at the scene, en route to hospital or at the hospital itself.

Dr Cooper, 57, had been working in Saudi Arabia on the power plant’s construction for three years.

He had previously told his wife Alex that his greatest risk in the Middle Eastern country was being killed on the roads because of other motorists’ poor standard of driving, Cannock Coroner’s Court was told today.

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Dr Cooper was described as an intelligent, popular family man who was very conscious of road safety and did his utmost to comply with traffic regulations.

He regularly commuted between the power plant and the country’s capital, Riyadh, the inquest heard, and he had set off from the power plant on the afternoon of April 29 2013 when he was involved in the collision.

A jack-knifed truck and tractor unit, a white truck and white car were involved in the collision alongside Dr Cooper’s Toyota SUV and the crash resulted in three fatalities in total. There was damage to the front and rear of Dr Cooper’s vehicle and marks from a lorry, the inquest heard.

A Saudi news article at the time gave the cause of the crash as a sandstorm followed by a rainstorm, and Dr Cooper’s cause of death was given by medics at Durma General Hospital as cardiac and respiratory arrest following a road traffic condition.

But South Staffordshire Coroner Andrew Haigh called for a post mortem to be carried out, which was conducted in Britain. Consultant pathologist Stephen Harris, based at Stafford Hospital, gave Dr Cooper’s cause of death as multiple injuries.

Mrs Cooper told today’s inquest she disputed the reason given for the crash. She was flying out to see her husband on the day and became concerned when he failed to arrive at the airport to meet her.

“I don’t think it was a very reliable conclusion for two reasons”, she said. “(The crash) was in Saudi Arabia - anyone surviving goes straight to jail. They will do their utmost to excuse themselves.”

She added that there were no signs of sand or rain residue on her late husband’s vehicle following the collision.

The inquest was told there had been difficulties obtaining information about the collision from Saudi authorities. A witness had been located, but despite email requests from the South Staffordshire Coroner’s office no statement had been forthcoming.

Mr Haigh said: “Taking into account the nature of his injuries, the probability is he was likely to be dead at the scene.

“Just how he was involved is difficult to say. It is likely his vehicle was, at some stage, hit by a truck.

“I would suggest it is likely a cab has had cause to brake, but not been able to brake in time. But the reason for that remains unclear.

“This death results from a tragic road traffic collision.”

Speaking after the inquest Mrs Cooper said her husband, who is also survived by sons Andrew and Fergus, was just a few weeks from returning home when he died.

“There were no surprises in the inquest for me”, she said.

“He was so much more than an engineer and manager. He organised and led expeditions to the Arctic while at Cambridge, and was in recent years a foster parent and, related to the fostering, a special-needs school parent governor.”

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