'Nothing could be done' to avoid tragic crash that claimed lives of Rothwell man and his grandparents
Jean and Fred Pritchard and, inset, Stuart Ratcliffe.
Nothing could have been done to prevent a tragic crash that claimed the lives of a Rothwell man and his elderly grandparents earlier this year, an inquest has heard. Fred Pritchard, 98, and his 90-year-old wife, Jean, were being driven home by their grandson Stuart Ratcliffe on February 18 after a happy family afternoon at the 40-year-old’s home in Rothwell. Tragically, while driving on the A43 between Sywell and the Hannington turn, all three family members were killed when Mr Ratcliffe’s red Vauxhall Corsa collided head-on with an oncoming truck.
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At their inquest at Northampton’s County Hall today (November 26), coroner Anne Pember ruled that nothing could have been done to prevent the crash or save their lives at the scene.
In a statement read out by the coroner, Mr Ratcliffe’s wife Lisa paid tribute to her “amazing” husband and said: “Stuart was one of the kindest, most loving people I’ve ever met. “He was a loving supportive man who always wanted the most from life. All Stuart had ever wanted was to have a family of his own.
He was an amazing hands-on dad who didn’t want to miss anything. “We had a great marriage and truly believed we would grow old together. His whole being was about his two boys, followed closely by his nan and pap.
“I feel so lucky to have been his wife.” The inquest heard how Mr and Mrs Pritchard had spent a “chatty, happy” afternoon with their grandson, his wife and their two boys on the day of the crash. At around 1.20pm, Mr Ratcliffe agreed to drive his two grandparents home to Northampton.
However, at a bend on the A43, the Corsa drifted into the offside lane for unknown reasons and into the path of an oncoming Volvo tipper lorry loaded with over 19 tonnes of building material. In a statement read out by the coroner, the driver of the lorry said: “The collision happened so quickly. I mounted the grass verge to try to avoid the Corsa but wasn’t able to move the tipper fast enough to avoid it.
“My main concern was to safely stop my vehicle. It took me 20 to 30 seconds to gather myself before I got out of the cab. “I spoke with another driver who had already been up to the Corsa.
He said there was nothing we could do. “I don’t think there was anything I could have done to avoid the accident. My thoughts are with the deceased’s family.”
In a statement released after the crash in February, Mr Ratcliffe’s mother and the daughter of the elderly couple, Diane Bates, said on behalf of the family: “We are just totally devastated at losing Stuart and my parents, and words cannot describe the loss and sorrow we are feeling.
“This will leave a massive hole in our hearts for the rest of our lives and we are all going to truly miss Stuart and my parents.”