'Lovely, happy' mum-of-four killed instantly when fence post pierced side of car after she lost control on motorway

A mum-of-four was killed instantly when a fence post pierced the side of her car after she lost control on the motorway, an inquest heard. Antonia Marie Shepherd, known to friends and family as Toni, was driving southbound on the M61 near Adlington, Lancashire, when the fatal crash happened at 1pm on June 28 last year. After the 38-year-old’s death, her family issued a tribute and described her as a ‘ray of light’.

Ms Shepherd was from Lostock Hall, in Lancsshire. In a statement her loved ones said: “Toni was a much loved daughter, sister, partner and friend but her most important role in life was as a wonderful mum to her four children. “Toni was a ray of light in the lives of all who knew her and she was so kind hearted and trusting seeing the good in everyone.

“What she lacked in confidence she made up for in sheer determination and she worked hard at whatever she put her mind to. “She’s been taken from us far too soon and at a time when she was at her happiest. She will be greatly missed and we would like to ask for privacy at this incredibly difficult time.”

a person wearing sunglasses posing for the camera: Toni Shepherd (C) Family handout Toni Shepherd  

At an inquest at Preston Coroners’ Court, collision investigator PC Jason Colclough revealed his findings after examining the scene and Miss Shepherd’s Kia Sportage.

The road was closed for more than four hours while the investigation was carried out. “We attended the scene on the M61 at 1.25pm,” PC Colcough said. “It had stopped raining when I got there, but en route there it was raining heavily and there was a lot of spray on the motorway but the M61 was draining so there was no standing water.

“The incident was captured on CCTV from Highways England and on cameras on a HGV which was passing, which both showed it was raining extremely heavily at the time.” The officer said CCTV footage clearly showed the incident near Rivington Services and revealed Miss Shepherd was driving in lane three, with no other vehicles nearby, when she lost control. “Judging from the HGV CCTV, which was travelling at 56mph, when she went past she was travelling at around 80mph,” PC Colclough added.

“For no reason she seems to react and steers heavily to the left, the vehicle spins, she goes across the carriageway and up the banking. “The vehicle strikes the fence and one of the posts punctured through and struck the driver.” Area coroner Richard Taylor heard Miss Shepherd’s Kia was ‘perfectly roadworthy’ and the only possible explanation for her losing control was the heavy rain.

PC Colclough said there is ‘nothing a driver can do’ once a car begins to spin at motorway speed. “People watch films and see incidents like this and the driver corrects it but in reality once a vehicle rotates at 60/70mph there is nothing a driver can do,” he added. A post mortem CT scan revealed the cause of death was trauma, which the coroner said would have killed Miss Shepherd instantly.

“The whole incident, from losing control to her death, would have been a matter of seconds,” the coroner told Miss Shepherd’s dad Peter Garner. Concluding that Miss Shepherd died as a result of a road traffic collision, he added: “I think it is more than relevant that the conditions were wet at the time. “She was in the outside lane, there weren’t many vehicles, and for some reason, whether from driving on the rumble strip or from the rain, she has over-adjusted her steering and that is the only explanation for the vehicle losing control.

“She then goes across the carriageway and up the banking.”

After the inquest, Mr Garner said his daughter was a ‘loving, happy person who was always busy’.

She was the partner of David and mum to three girls and a boy – Charlie, Madison, Bailey and James.

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