South West Wales

Harry Patterson driveway death in Pontardawe accidental

A mother has told an inquest how she found her five-year-old son crushed by the family car after it slipped down their steep driveway.

Harry Patterson suffered head injuries while playing near the car at Alltwen, near Pontardawe, Swansea Valley.

His mother Michelle told the inquest in Cardiff she had shaken the car after parking to ensure it was secure.

Cardiff coroner Mary Hassell called the tragedy appalling and recorded a verdict of accidental death.

The inquest heard that a combination of the car not being parked in gear, the steepness of the slope and the brakes' "slippage" as they cooled led to the accident.

There was no defect with the car and the handbrake was still on, the inquest was told. But the Seat Altea was not parked in gear, as advised by the owner's manual.

The inquest heard that Harry had not long returned home in the car with his mother and elder brother Dylan when the accident happened.

Mrs Patterson told the hearing: "Dylan and I got out of the car but Harry stayed inside. I told him 'jump out Harry, I'm going to put the dinner on'.

"I went into the house and that's when I heard Dylan shouting 'mummy the car's rolling down the drive'.

Air ambulance

"The first thing I thought was what damage is this going to cause - then I thought: 'where's Harry?'

"He was on the driver's side of the car standing up with the car pushing him against the wall.

"I couldn't pull him out, I tried to get in the car but I didn't have keys. I ran and got them and went back the car.

"Harry had fallen to the floor, the car had gone back into my little boy."

Harry was taken by air ambulance to the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, where he was pronounced dead, the inquest heard.

Philip Painting, of the South Wales Police collision investigation unit, said many people did not realise they needed to leave a vehicle in gear when parking on a steep slope.

He said: "This is because when the vehicle is parked when the rear brakes are still hot, as they cool down it can cause the disk brakes to slip.

"I don't think the handbrake could have been released by either of those boys. It is my opinion that as the brakes slipped it rolled down the hill and hit Harry."

Ms Hassell said: "Harry was out playing around the car as little children do. It seems the car crept backwards as the discs were cooling. It was an appalling accident."

Mine tragedy

Speaking after the inquest, Harry's father Christian said: "I was not aware of parking in first gear and it's a very high price to pay to find that out."

He said the family now plan a campaign to raise awareness about parking safety and keep Harry's memory alive.

Harry's death on 13 September came two days before four miners died as a result of flooding in the nearby Gleision colliery.

Hundreds of mourners who attended his funeral also observed a minute's silence for the miners who died when the drift mine flooded.

Harry was also remembered at a memorial service for the four men - Charles Breslin, Phillip Hill, Garry Jenkins and David Powell - in November.

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