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16 April 2013, 16:08
No charges are to be brought against a lorry driver whose vehicle collided with a car between Seaham and Houghton-le-Spring almost a year ago, killing all four members of the same extended family.
Three people died instantly in the crash which happened on Seaton Lane on Wednesday 25th April 2012.
They were 75-year-old Robert Reed, the driver of the Renault Megane Scenic car, Natalie Simpson, aged 18 and her 14-month-old daughter, Destiny.
Several days later Mr Reed's wife, 74-year-old Margaret died from her injuries in the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough without ever regaining consciousness.
Mr and Mrs Reed lived in St Michael's in Houghton-le-Spring and were the grandparents of Natalie's partner.
Natalie and Destiny lived in Britannia Terrace, Fencehouses.
The driver of the heavy goods vehicle, a 42-year-old man from Hetton-le-Hole was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.
Since then he has been re-bailed a number of times while enquiries into the incident continued.
A file was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service last year and investigating officers have been in regular contact with staff from the CPS over the last few months.
The CPS has now confirmed it is recommending no further action should be taken against the lorry driver, who has this morning been informed and his bail cancelled.
The family of the deceased were also updated yesterday with news of the decision.
The senior investigating officer, Insp Ed Turner said;
"This has been a lengthy and at times complex process, which must have been very distressing for all those concerned. I am grateful for their patience during the last twelve months.
The CPS considered all the relevant evidence including expert medical opinion on issues which came to light during our investigations. We will now conclude our enquiries on behalf of the coroner and an inquest will be arranged in due course."
Paul Lee, Crown Advocate for CPS North East said:
"I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the families of those involved in this tragic incident, but I would hope that our decision brings some measure of closure to them.
Immediately following the collision, the driver in this case gave an account that he had experienced a coughing fit which had caused him to suddenly lose consciousness.
This type of event is known medically as 'cough syncope.'
Following the collision the driver was taken to Sunderland Royal Infirmary, where he was examined by a doctor.
A series of tests were conducted that showed that he had recently been subject to a whooping cough infection.
The tests also showed that the driver's blood pressure dropped to low levels during a coughing fit, which could have caused him to lose consciousness.
The doctor stated at that time that the results were consistent with a diagnosis of 'cough syncope' due to acute whooping cough infection."
The CPS engaged the services of two further independent medical professionals, one of whom was an expert in syncope, to scrutinise the initial diagnosis made. Both agreed independently that the medical evidence was consistent with this diagnosis.
Given that no evidence could be found to establish an alternative version of events, the case did not pass the evidential stage of the full code test and a prosecution will not now be brought against the driver of the lorry.