Laura Walden inquest: Reason why teen’s car drifted into oncoming traffic remains a mystery

Laura Walden, of Quainton, near Aylesbury, died in the crash
Laura Walden, of Quainton, near Aylesbury, died in the crash

The reasons why a teenager’s car drifted into oncoming traffic – resulting in the head-on crash which killed her – will never be known, an inquest has heard.

Laura Walden, 17, from Quainton, was driving home from Aylesbury along the A41 near Fleet Marston, when the three-car collision happened on February 20.

An inquest heard this morning how it can not be fully known what caused the teenager’s car to ‘drift’ into the opposite carriageway, colliding with two cars, one of which was carrying seven children.

Andrew Taylor and his wife Louise were travelling in convoy in the direction of Aylesbury on the morning of the crash.

Giving evidence from a wheelchair Mr Taylor described how he looked in the rear view mirror of his Toyota Land Cruiser for a spilt second to check on the children, before looking back and seeing Miss Walden’s white Corsa heading towards him around twenty or thirty feet away.

Her car had already clipped the wing mirror of Mrs Taylor’s Renault, creating a bang which she said she felt sure would prompt Miss Walden to move back into the correct lane.

Mr Taylor, who is recovering from two broken heels and a broken ankle, said: “I wasn’t paying any particular attention to any particular vehicle until I saw that white car, but I believe that at that point there was an articulated truck and she had probably pulled out from behind it.”

Directly after the crash Mrs Taylor pulled over and turned her car around to tend to her husband and the children.

Mr Taylor told how he was too injured to get to the children, and couldn’t feel his feet.

Two of the children were later airlifted to hospital, but debris from the crash had to be cleared by firefighters before medical crews could get to the injured.

The inquest heard from PC Adrian White of Thames Valley Police who is a forensic collision investigator.

He said that marks in the road supported evidence that Laura’s vehicle had drifted onto the oncoming traffic, resulting in an ‘almost head on collision’ with Mr Taylor’s Toyota.

PC White said that this type of drift is often associated with a situation where a driver may have had a medical episode or fallen asleep at the wheel.

However, Mrs Taylor’s evidence stated that she had seen Miss Walden upright and with her eyes open at the time that their cars clipped.

PC White also speculated that Miss Walden may have been momentarily distracted by her mobile phone, which had received a text message around the time that the crash took place - however the court heard that the message could have arrived seconds after the collision.

Miss Walden’s phone – which was found in the foot well of her car after the crash – could not be interrogated due to a locked pin code.

Information received from an insurance tracking box fitted in the teenager’s car, designed to monitor safe driving, showed that Miss Walden had never exceeded the speed limit.

Checks were also carried out on Miss Walden’s Corsa which showed that nothing was mechanically wrong.

Senior coroner Richard Hulett asked PC White if it was possible that Miss Walden could have been ‘paralysed with panic due to inexperience’.

PC White agreed that this was possible.

The inquest also heard from commercial lorry drivers Geoffrey Glover and Brian Evans, who were travelling in the same lane as Miss Walden on the morning of the crash.

The pair told how they jumped out of their vehicles to tend to the injured, and Mr Evans told how he took the teenager’s pulse while Mr Glover called 999.

Both men said that they did not see Miss Walden’s car drift into the oncoming carriageway.

Mr Evans said: “I couldn’t actually see what had happened but I heard a big noise like an explosion.

“I immediately slammed on the brakes because I had a 30 tonne load behind me.”

Mr Hulett, hearing the case at Beaconsfield coroners court recorded a verdict that Miss Walden died as a result of a road traffic collision.

Following the accident the parents of Miss Walden tribute to their daughter.

In a joint statement they said: “We and our son Daniel are devastated at the sudden loss of Laura and she leaves a huge hole in our lives and that of our close family that will never be filled.

“To us and Daniel she was not just a daughter and sister but best friend and to her grandparents, such a loving and special person.”

Laura was in her final year at Waddesdon School and her parents said that she really loved school and was looking forward to taking up a well deserved place at University.

“Laura had a wide circle of friends in and out of school and we would like to thank them, their parents, the school, our friends as well as all our family for the overwhelming amount of kind messages we have received,” they added.

“She always tried hard to think the best of everyone, just be a nice person and it is a great comfort to us and it has been truly amazing to see just how popular and well thought of she was by so many.

“Many messages we have received have mentioned how lovely Laura was to them and while we cannot stop thinking about our beautiful daughter, our thoughts are also there for the others injured in the accident and their families.”

Waddesdon School’s head teacher Peter Norman also paid tribute.

He said: “Laura Walden was a studying for her A-Levels at Waddesdon C of E School.

“She was a highly intelligent, kind and generous-hearted student who was loved by students and staff alike.

“She will be greatly missed by the whole school community and our thoughts and prayers will be with her family and loved ones at this tragic time.”