Oct 7 2010 By Jack Abell
Popular teacher Sarah Elaine Stacey
A ROAD that was seriously flooded after drains were not cleared for nearly year claimed the life of a popular teacher, an inquest has ruled.
Sarah Elaine Stacey, 23, a teacher at Viking Primary School in Ealing, died in hospital from serious head injuries following a huge accident on the A413 in Chalfont St Peter on February 28.
Her car was hit after a Ford Focus lost control after hitting the 70 ft long and 15 cm deep stretch of water on the road, and crossed the central reservation into the path of Miss Stacey's oncoming Fiat Punto.
The inquest heard that the water covered an entire section of one lane of the dual carriageway, and some of the other lane, meaning that it was extremely difficult to see and react to on the unlit road.
The driver of the Ford Focus, Matthew Bristow, hit the water and swerved to try and avoid it but lost control of his vehicle and ended up landing on the other side of the dual carriageway, upside down in the face of oncoming traffic.
There is no suggestion that he was driving too quickly or recklessly.
The inquest heard that the drains on the road had become clogged up with debris including foliage and other dirt, and had not been cleaned in nearly a year.
Eric Meek, group operations manager for transport for Buckinghamshire, said that the harsh winter weather, which had included prolonged periods of snow and ice on the roads, had caused the problems.
He said: "In normal circumstances, the standard county council routine of clearing the drains once a year is enough to cope.
"The amount of water and snow that came down blocked it completely, but that section of the road is not a known flooding site.
"We were not able to use our gully cleaning equipment in January at all because all our machines were frozen solid."
Coroner Richard Hulett recorded a verdict of death by misadventure and said: "A second either way, and this would not have happened, and we would not be sitting here today.
"Miss Stacey would have had no opportunity to react to the car which found its way into her path."
After the inquest, Miss Stacey's father Ray paid tribute to his daughter, saying: "She brightened the lives of everyone she came into contact with.
"She was bright, fun and a joy to know. She was loved by the children at her school, and was at the very beginning of her teaching career."