Bereavement due to traumatic death

Sarah - Interview 20

Age at interview: 62

Brief outline: Sarah's husband, Russell, died in 2006 in a road traffic collision. He was driving a bus when the driver of another vehicle pulled out suddenly, causing the incident. Sarah was devastated and still feels that her life has been shattered.

Background: Sarah is a Manager in a college of further education. She is a widow and has 4 children. Ethnic background/nationality' White British.

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In September 2006 Sarah’s husband, Russell, was driving a bus on a stretch of road that changed from a motorway into a dual carriage way, and which was inclined slightly up-hill. He was driving at a safe distance behind a van. Witnesses were sure about this. There was a car transporter in a lay-by on the dual carriage way. Without warning, the car transporter pulled out in front of the van, the van slowed down suddenly, and Russell was unable to stop the bus before it crashed into the back of the van. The collision was partly due to poor road design, and partly due to the error made by the driver of the car transporter. He should not have pulled out suddenly just in front of the van.
Russell was crushed when the bus hit the van. His injuries were serious. He was taken to hospital by air ambulance but died in the operating theatre due to massive blood loss caused by his injuries. Sarah was taken to the hospital by police escort. She had to identify Russell. She phoned the children and when they arrived they all went to see Russell together.
The funeral was held about two weeks later, after the post-mortem. The funeral was lovely. About 300 people attended the church service and four people spoke about Russell. He was then cremated. Some of his ashes were scattered on a hill and some put in a casket and buried.
Sarah found it very hard to believe that Russell had died. His death was a tremendous shock. During the first year after Russell’s death Sarah had terrible dreams and often felt physically ill and exhausted. She feared the future and felt deeply depressed at times. Now, over two years later, Sarah wants to “move on” and be in a happier place, yet at the same time does not want to leave Russell’s memory and the experience behind. She feels guilty if she feels any happiness because Russell hasn’t got the chance of such happiness. Sometimes she feels positive and confident but at other times she is back in the ‘pit of despair’. She hates being alone.
About five months after Russell’s death Sarah had some counselling arranged by her GP, and provided by her GP. The counsellor was very helpful and provided strategies for coping. She helped Sarah visualise and think about situations in a more positive manner, and she helped to validate emotions. Sarah still sees the counsellor about every six weeks.
The driver was only charged with driving without due care and attention, and then fined, and given penalty points and ordered to pay costs. Sarah had been told by the police that he would be charged at one court appearance and then sentenced at a later court appearance. She had been told by the police that it would be sensible to miss the first court appearance, which would be very short, but attend the court for the sentencing. However, the driver was charged and sentenced at the same time and so Sarah and her children missed his court appearance, which made them all very angry. The Crown Prosecution Service had not informed the police that this might happen.
The police liaison officer was excellent, and passed on as much information as possible. He visited Sarah regularly in the first few weeks and then at least once a month and kept her up-to-date with what was happening. Sarah and the family wanted as much information as possible about what had happened. The police took Sarah and her children to look at the road where the collision occurred and explained that tests had shown that Russell had not been speeding at the time of the collision. The bus company has also been excellent and has tried to help Sarah in every possible way.
The inquest was held some time after the court case. There were a number of witnesses, but the driver of the transporter that caused the collision did not turn up. The coroner did not think that the word “accident” described what happened, so gave a narrative verdict.
Sarah was interviewed in 2008.


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