After 4½-year wait, tram crash inquest finally begins

The overturned tram, as seen from the Addiscombe Road bridge, in November 2016

The inquest into the deaths of the seven people killed when a tram derailed at Sandilands Junction on the dark morning of Wednesday November 9 2016 will finally get underway at the Town Hall today.

Of the 70 people on board the tram at the time of the crash, seven died and 62 were injured, 19 seriously.

The Senior Coroner for Croydon, Sarah Ormond-Walsh, will sit with a jury to hear the evidence relating to the deaths of Dane Chinnery, 19, Philip Logan, 52, Philip Seary, 57, Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35, and Robert Huxley, 63, all from New Addington, and Mark Smith, 35, and Donald Collett, 62, from Croydon.

The inquest has been long-delayed caused by police investigations into the circumstances surrounding the crash, and was postponed last year because of the difficulties in staging the court proceedings with a jury during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ben Posford, partner at London law firm Osbornes Law, is lead solicitor for five of the seven families. “This has been a long and agonising wait for all the families,” he said today.

Victims: From left, Mark Smith, Dane Chinnery, Phil Seary and Dorota Rynkiewicz all died in the crash

“We believe they were badly let down by the tram operators, Tram Operations Limited, a subsidiary of First Group, and Transport for London.

“As such, the families’ hope for the inquest is that it will give them a better understanding, and some long-overdue answers, as to why their loved ones are no longer here.

“Importantly, they also want to make sure that lessons are learned, and changes made in relation to the systemic failures and poor management culture that led to the crash, so that nothing like this can happen again.”

Posford has instructed one of the UK’s leading personal injury and inquest lawyers, Andrew Ritchie QC, who says: “The five families hope for a full and fearless coronial investigation of the causes and all parties owe it to the families to expose the truth about how and in what circumstances the crash on November 9 2016 was allowed to occur.

“This inquest is about the inherent and foreseeable human failings of public transport drivers and how ToL and TfL failed to take safety measures to prevent disasters arising from such human failings.

Victims: From left Philip Logan, Donald Collett and Robert Huxley

“It is very disappointing to the families that the driver of the tram has been diagnosed unfit to attend the inquest, but they still hope that they will hear an apology from him,” Ritchie said.

Ritchie also confirmed that civil claims on behalf of the families have been settled with TfL and their insurers, QBE. Ritchie said they had “…acted impeccably and swiftly” to settle the bereaved families’ compensation claims.

During the inquest, the coroner and the jury will hear from the Rail Accident Investigation Board, the British Transport Police and witnesses from some of the interested parties including the tram operator ToL and London Trams, which being part of TfL was responsible for the tramway infrastructure.

RAIB’s 2018 report into the crash can be viewed here.

RAIB concluded that the driver either fell asleep or became disorientated in the Sandilands tunnel. They also concluded that ToL’s risk assessments and safety precautions against their drivers’ human failings were inadequate.

TfL appointed SNC-Lavalin to carry out an independent report into the crash. That report and recommendations can be viewed here.

Jury selection will take place today. Pen Portraits will be read by the families in person tomorrow.

Read more: No one to blame. Or no one cares? Tram crash case dropped
Read more: TfL safety audit kept secret from crash investigators
Read more: Driver of crashed tram ‘too unwell’ to give evidence at inquest
Read more: TfL considered cancelling tram contract after 2016 crash

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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