A mum-of-four stranded in a broken down car on the motorway was killed by a lorry driver after a recovery company refused to rescue her.
John Bowers, 35, was driving a skip lorry on the M60 anticlockwise carriageway when he failed to spot a Kia Ceed was stationary with its hazard lights flashing on the hatch marked area separating lane one of the motorway from the slip road at junction 20.
Shirley-Ann Dumbuya, 38, was unable to move her car and was essentially ‘trapped’ inside.
She had been advised by insurance company Green Flag – known for its motto ”Common Sense to the Rescue” – that they could not go out to assist unless she was on the hard shoulder.
After a few minutes, Bowers, of Preston, collided with the Kia, the Manchester Evening News reports.
Emergency services arrived a short time later and Mrs Dumbuya was cut from her vehicle, but despite the efforts of medical staff, she was sadly declared dead at the scene.
Judge Anthony Cross condemned the insurance provider and called for an enquiry by the Assistant Chief Constable in Greater Manchester to look into what should happen if the situation arises again.
“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. This was an accident waiting to happen,” he said.
After eventually pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving, Bowers was yesterday handed a suspended sentence at Manchester Crown Court.
Prosecuting, Mark Kellet, said that on January 21 2021, Mrs Dumbuya left home at around 8.35am in her Kia Ceed, which was said to be in ‘good working order’. 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 whilst he called Green Flag. They told him they could not attend to assist ‘unless the vehicle was on the hard shoulder or off the motorway’.
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.
“As he approached junction 20, he could see a silver car on a grass verge and emergency vehicles,” Mr Kellet said. “His wife had been in a fatal incident.”
The prosecutor said 19 cars travelling in lane one had noticed the Kia and passed it safely. One man was driving his company van when he overtook the skip wagon Bowers was driving.
When he went to move back into lane one, he saw the silver car positioned on the Chevrons between lane one and the slip road with its brake lights illuminated and hazard lights flashing.
“He stayed in lane two to pass the stranded vehicle. He watched in his rear view mirror as the skip wagon collided with the silver car,” Mr Kellet continued.
Another motorist who was planning to leave the motorway at junction 19 was considering moving from lane two to lane one when she saw the collision. She immediately pulled over and found Mrs Dumbuya trapped in the car.
Mr Kellet added: “She saw the defendant who had stopped his wagon. He repeatedly said, “I didn’t see her” and was clearly in shock.”
Bowers was said to be travelling at 55mph and had an unobstructed view of the Kia for about 150 to 175 metres.
A joint expert report included the comment that his ‘error’ was that he did not appreciate that the Kia Ceed was stationary. The prosecutor said the fact that the car was stationary was ‘clearly evident’ to the other 19 drivers who had manoeuvred around it.
He was not using his phone at the time, nor was he under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and he was driving at 15 miles under the speed limit.
At the time, Bowers had been working for J Dickinsons and Sons for nine weeks. He had been trained, driving with an experienced driver before being allowed to take the vehicle out alone. His driving and use of the vehicle had last been assessed on December 15 2020.
On the day in question, he had been driving for around two hours before the collision, starting work at 6.45am. In a police interview, he told police his vehicle had been in perfect working order and there had been no distractions or medical conditions which would have affected his driving.
In an emotional victim personal statement read out by her daughter, Alice Dumbuya, she said her family’s lives have been ‘shattered forever’. She said her mother was ‘very family orientated’ and ‘loved by so many people’.
“You never think it will happen until it happens to you. I lost my best friend,” she said.
“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.”
Bowers was said to have previous convictions for driving with excess alcohol, driving without due care and attention and failing to stop. In 2016, he was seen by a police officer driving out of a petrol station without wearing a seatbelt.
They motioned for him to stop but he failed to do so and a pursuit ensued where he went through a red light and reached speeds of 70mph on a 30mph road. He was arrested after he failed to negotiate a roundabout and drove through the centre and collided with the vegetation. He was later found to be over the legal drink drive limit.
Mitigating, Richard Dawson said: “Plainly this is a tragic case with catastrophic consequences. Our sympathies and condolences are offered to the family and close friends.
“They have all been seriously affected by the consequences of this defendant’s actions. I accept he now shows some remorse.”
Mr Dawson added that Bowers had worked as a professional driver and otherwise had a good driving record.
Sentencing, Judge Anthony Cross QC said: “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.”
Bowers was handed a six month jail sentence which was suspended for 12 months, he was banned from driving for three years and his licence was endorsed.
A Green Flag spokesperson said: “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.”