The jury in the coroner’s court inquest into the death of seven passengers on a Croydon tram in November 2016 has delivered a verdict of accidental death.
The jury of 10 had earlier this week been directed to deliver a majority verdict, after failing to reach a unanimous decision following more than two weeks of deliberation.
The inquest at Croydon Town Hall had spent two months going through evidence of the circumstances that led to the disaster, the worst tram crash in this country for more than a century.
Family members of the victims who sat in the public gallery to hear the verdict branded the inquest as a “farce” and claimed “justice has been suffocated”, as they pledged to continue to campaign over the events that led to the disaster.
Today’s verdict ruled out the alternative possible outcome: unlawful killing.
In delivering their verdict, the jury was critical of the culture at the tram operating company, TOL, which prevented employees reporting safety concerns.
The coroner, Sarah Ormond-Walshe, in her summing up on July 7 had told the jury that they had a choice of verdict of either accidental death or unlawful killing.
The jury took nine days to reach its verdict.
Today, in announcing its verdict, the jury foreman said, “The tram driver became disorientated, which caused loss of awareness in his surroundings, probably due to a lack of sleep. As a result of which, the driver failed to brake in time and drove his tram towards a tight curve at excessive speed.
“The tram left the rails and overturned on to its right side, as a result of which the deceased were ejected from the tram and killed.”
But lawyers acting for the victims’ families suggest that the coroner and the inquest could now become subject to a Judicial Review after witnesses from Transport for London, TOL and the tram driver didn’t appear at the inquest.
The families want to know why previous incidents on the tram network, including one 10 days before the fatal crash, weren’t investigated properly.
Dane Chinnery 19, Philip Seary, 57, Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35, Robert Huxley, 63, and Philip Logan, all from New Addington, and Donald Collett, 62, and Mark Smith, 35, both from Croydon, were killed in the crash.
Another 50 passengers suffered injuries, some life-changing.
The inquest had been long delayed, first because of lengthy investigations by British Transport Police and then, last year, because of the covid-19 pandemic.
The coroner’s court was originally expected to spend 13 weeks hearing witness statements and other evidence, but the jury was sent out to consider its verdict after less than two months.
The inquest jury had heard that the tram toppled over and spun off the tracks near Sandilands after hitting a curve at 45mph, despite a 12mph speed limit.
Read more: Tram crash victims’ families call for retrial after inquest ‘farce’
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Have to say that I agree with the families, what a farce