A CORONER is urging farmers near Stafford to warn their seasonal workers of road dangers after a Latvian farmworker was killed while walking on the A518 at Bury Bank in the early hours.
South Staffordshire assistant coroner Margaret Jones said it would be “unrealistic” to expect the local council to put in pavements and street lighting on the rural main road.
“But it might just save a few lives if workers were advised to wear reflective clothing,” she added. Mrs Jones said she would be writing to the owners of Dearnsdale Farm, where the dead man, Olegs Sulaimonovs, had been working, to ask them to alert staff to the dangers.
The inquest heard that Mr Sulaimonovs, aged 34, who had been working at the farm for a month, spent the evening of March 8 drinking with a work colleague, Mihael Durins, then decided to walk into Stafford to go dancing.
The two men, both wearing dark clothing, were seen walking in the middle of the road on the Stafford-bound side and “staggering about” as if drunk by two motorists heading towards Newport at around 1am on March 9, PC Brian Lovatt told Cannock Coroner’s Court.
Shortly after, Mr Sulaimonovs was struck by a taxi travelling towards Stafford. His neck was broken by the impact and he died at the scene. Toxicology tests found he had a blood alcohol level of 242mg, three times the drink-drive limit.
Taxi driver Gareth Lewis, of Telegraph Street, Stafford, said he had been “blinded” by the full-beam headlights of an on-coming car as he approached Bury Bank, and had not seen anyone ahead of him.
“The next thing was a bang,” he said. “The passenger side of the windscreen smashed and I felt something hit the vehicle. I suppose I thought it was an animal.”
Mr Lewis stopped, turned the vehicle around and went back to the scene, then dialled 999. He said it took about five minutes before he found Mr Sulaimonovs lying on the verge, next to a wall. “I feel sorry for his family and I wish it had never happened,” Mr Lewis said.
Collision investigator PC Roger Wetton said there were no defects to the taxi, a Peugeot Partner, owned by Stafford firm Anthony’s and AJ’s.
He estimated that on a dark road without street lights Mr Lewis would have been less than a second away from impact before he could have spotted the pedestrian on the road, giving him no time to react.
PC Lovatt added that since the collision a local PCSO had produced road safety leaflets in a variety of East European languages to alert the estimated 2,000 seasonal workers on fruit farms off the A518 to the risks it posed.
The coroner concluded that Mr Sulaimonovs’ death was accidental.
“I attribute no blame whatsoever to the taxi driver,” she said. “He was unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Mrs Jones said there was “more than one victim” in such cases. “Not only does it affect the family of the deceased, there are many others, such as the driver, who are affected. It is very sad indeed.”
She also told Mr Lewis: “This was not easy for you and I am grateful for your evidence.”