Woman died in Yarm crash after driver 'stung by wasp'

Charges against Helen Shaw were dropped after she was involved in a fatal crash after being stung by a wasp. Credit: Gazette Media Syndication

An 85-year-old woman died in a car crash after another driver lost control when she was stung by a wasp, an inquest heard.

Rosina Ingram died a week after the head-on-collision in 2019.

Helen Shaw was driving on the A67, near Kirklevington, Yarm, when she lost control of her vehicle after she was stung on the leg.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dropped a charge of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving two years after the three-vehicle collision.

Mrs Ingram's son Stephen told the inquest he held Ms Shaw, from Yarm, accountable for the death.

The crash happened on 25 July 2019, at about 11:55am and involved Ms Shaw's Seat Leon, an Audi Q7 and Mr and Mrs Ingram's red Nissan Note.

Mrs Ingram, 85, who had been a passenger in the Nissan Note which her husband was driving, died in hospital on 2 August 2019 from chest and abdominal injuries.

At an inquest at Teesside Coroner's Court on Thursday 7 September, collision investigator Michael Woodhouse said Ms Shaw had crossed onto the other side of the road and collided with the Nissan Note, causing the vehicles to be pushed backwards towards the Audi.

He added Ms Shaw had "lost concentration" due to the presence of a wasp in her vehicle.

Helen Shaw crossed onto the wrong side of the road after being stung by a wasp, an inquest heard. Credit: Gazette Media Syndication

“Her eyes were taken away from the road and (she) happened to be on the wrong side of the road at that point,” he said. The coroner’s court heard statements from a number of witnesses who stated that Ms Shaw was sitting on the floor, near to the Seat Leon’s driver door, and said her "leg was bust".

A paramedic who attended the scene added that Ms Shaw stated she had “panicked” after a wasp had “flown in through the window”. She added that when she "looked up she had crossed the line into the road and hit the oncoming vehicle".

A police officer, who spoke to the mum-of-three at the side of the road, told how she said: “Are the people in that car ok? It’s all my fault.”

Coroner Karin Welsh asked Mr Woodhouse if there was any opportunity for Ms Shaw to pull over on the A67. He stated that there were a number of places where Ms Shaw could have stopped, including a layby and the entrance to Judge’s hotel.

Ms Shaw, a dog breeder and equestrian worker, took to the witness box and told how she had two passengers in the car at the time of the crash and had been travelling for around five minutes.

She said she had been driving at about 30 to 35mph when she "felt something" on her leg, looking down and seeing the wasp. She looked back up and hit their car, she added.

She told the inquest she only noticed the wasp when she felt it and had not known it was there before.

Photos of two stings on Ms Shaw’s legs were shown in court - one on the top of the right leg, near to her knee, and the other on her left shin.

When asked how long she had looked down for she replied: “Seconds, I would say two seconds. It was enough time for me to say ‘s*** a wasp’ and look back up.”

Three vehicles were involved in the fatal crash on the A67 near Kirklevington, Yarm in July 2019. Credit: Gazette Media Syndication

Coroner Welsh stated that it was a "very short" space of time to have crossed the road and Helen Shaw agreed.

Coroner Welsh proposed to Ms Shaw, who sobbed in the witness box as she gave evidence, that she could have put the car in a safe place before looking down. She replied that it was a “reaction” and not a “conscious thought”. “I felt something and I looked,” she said.

The inquest heard Mrs Ingram's husband had never recovered and his health had deteriorated following the crash.

The couple's son thanked the emergency services, members of the public who looked after his parents before they were taken to hospital, and the nurses and doctors who cared for his mother.

However, he added he was not impressed by the collision investigation, the lengthy inquest process and "delays" by the CPS.

Speaking directly to Ms Shaw, he said he wanted her to understand the “gravity of impact” the collision has had on his family.

He said: “I do not accept your account and for that you will be forever accountable.”

Coroner Welsh stated that, in her opinion, she believed the wasp was already in the car when Ms Shaw’s journey began.

She added that Ms Shaw "looked down for a period of time and crossed the road and collided with the Nissan Note".

Saying Ms Shaw was "not in full control" of her vehicle, she added: "Drivers must make conscious decisions relating to safety at all times".

It was recorded that Mrs Ingram, who was a retired carer from Stockton, died as a result of a road traffic collision.

In 2021, when charges were dropped against Ms Shaw, a CPS spokesperson said: “The defendant’s line of defence from the beginning of this case was that she had been stung by a wasp whilst driving, causing her to lose control of her vehicle. No evidence was uncovered by police which supported that line of defence.

“It was appropriate at that stage to bring a charge of causing death by careless driving and to allow a jury to decide whether the defendant had in fact been stung, and whether this had caused her to lose control of her vehicle. Further evidence, subsequently obtained, was supportive of the defendant’s version of events.

"Following a further review of the case, we decided there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction and took the appropriate decision to formally offer no evidence in the case.”

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