Picking up the pieces

Scene of a fatal road accident involving a white van and HGV on St Michael's Road, Bilsborrow.
Scene of a fatal road accident involving a white van and HGV on St Michael's Road, Bilsborrow.
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IT’S difficult not to feel a lump in your throat whenever you drive past a mangled car at the side of the road.

But Sgt David Horsfield can’t afford to let his emotions get the better of him.

As an accident investigator, he’s a man on a quest for answers. Answers which are not only essential for a police investigation but also invaluable to those involved, family members, the coroner and the courts.

And when he’s called to a fatal collision, his job becomes all the more important.

“We work to serve the families because often they want to know what happened,” he said.

“It can be quite surreal for the families. Their relative might go for a ride on their motorbike, say they’ll be back for tea and never come back. The family want to know their movements. How the accident was caused. What they were doing.”

For many of us, this kind of job would be too emotionally charged.

But Sgt Horsfield has years of experience to help him cope.

The father-of-two said: “If there’s a child involved who’s the same age as one of my children, I start to think about things.

“But you have got to switch off from that, be professional and do your job.

“Sometimes you get a crash where there aren’t any witnesses and you have to rely on forensic evidence at the scene. If you find out what has happened, and you can give those answers to the family, you get a lot of satisfaction from the job.”

There were 46 fatal crashes in Lancashire last year, and 18 in the county this year.

Only last week, Sgt Horsfield was called to a horrific crash in Bilsborrow. Jamie Clyde, a 31-year-old father-of two, from Kirkham, died after his van collided with a lorry on St Michael’s Road.

And on June 7, the accident investigator was sent to the scene of a crash on Fleetwood Road in Anchorsholme.

Roseanna Cooper, of Dinmore Avenue, Grange Park, died from multiple injuries, after the car she was travelling in crashed.

The 21-year-old was one of seven people in a yellow MG ZR when it smashed into a wall on Fleetwood Road, near the junction of Kelso Avenue. Sgt Horsfield said: “A lot of factors can lead to a crash. It could be driver behaviour, excessive speed for the conditions, or mechanical defects.

“And sadly, drink-driving is still going on.”

It is for this reason, Lancashire Police launched their drink-driving campaign earlier this month.

The message is crystal clear – it’s just not worth it.

Sgt Horsfield added: “Eight out of the 46 fatal crashes last year involved drink or drugs, which is quite a significant proportion.

“Drink-driving can devastate many people’s lives – not only the victim’s and their family’s, but also the driver, who will end up in court before a judge. It’s not worth it.

“People often feel safe and wrapped up in their own car, they don’t realise they are driving a vehicle that weighs around one tonne and can do high speeds, and can potentially do a lot of damage.”

Sgt Horsfield joined Lancashire Constabulary in 1987 and has worked in the accident investigating unit at Hutton for the last eight years.

He is one of a team of seven who cover the whole county.

He said: “I’ve always had an interest in dealing with road traffic accidents – finding out whether the car had a defect and retrieving forensic evidence to find how accidents are caused.

“I’ve been a road traffic officer since 1992 and then the accident investigator role came up.

“If there is an accident in Blackpool, the local patrol will attend first. If it is thought forensic evidence will be needed, we are contacted.

“The most important thing, if it’s a serious crash, is the preservation of life. The fire service might be cutting someone out of a car so the paramedics can treat them. Giving them access to save a life has to come first.

“It’s a question of controlling the scene and making sure you get information from witnesses.

“Then there are many factors we have to look at. We do a visual inspection, the car is photographed, we look at the mechanics and check the pre and post-accident damage.

“We look at forensic evidence at the scene such as tyre marks on the road. We examine every single vehicle in an accident.

“We’ve had cars and motorcycles for a long time and it’s not going to stop now.

“I don’t think we will ever get to the position where we will prevent every single collision. It would be nice to do so. All we can do is strive to reduce them.”