Medication had part to play in death of popular nurse, says coroner
Updated 11:53am Tuesday 8th April 2014 in By Anne Moore
Devizes nurse and mother-of-three Sally-Ann Emery died in a car crash after her Suzuki Alto drifted to the opposite side of the carriageway, an inquest at Avon Coroner's Court heard.
Mrs Emery, 44, a popular healthcare assistant at Southbroom Surgery, in Estcourt Street, lived with her husband Mark and her children at Cornbrash Rise, Hilperton.
The crash happened on June 24 last year on the A36 Warminster Road, when she was taking her 16-year-old daughter Charlotte to a judo session at Bath University.
Miss Emery, an aspiring judo star and a member of Devizes Budo Club, was off to her first session after recovering from a hamstring injury and was singing and chatting with her mum moments before the crash.
She was texting her dad when she felt the car move, and looked up to see the car drifting across the carriageway and her mum’s head dropped to one side.
During a police interview she said: “I don’t know if she was swerving to miss something, but I felt the car move.
"I didn’t feel it brake or just slow down, because we weren’t going that fast.
"I don’t know why she dropped her head, but the next thing I knew I screamed at her and we hit the car.”
Mrs Emery’s car hit a Chrysler Grand Voyager, driven by Gareth Evans. She was pronounced dead at the scene and Miss Emery suffered a broken wrist.
PC David Watson, a forensic collision investigator, said: “He would have probably a second, less than a second and a half to react in that way. It’s unlikely that he could have avoided the collision.”
Peter Billing, who was driving a Vauxhall Zafira behind Mr Evans, said: “Her car just suddenly came across. I wouldn’t say it was a violent steer; it wasn’t like that at all, if anything it just looked as though the car was drifting across the road.
“I stopped my car straight away, I got my phone out and I called 999. I went towards the Suzuki Alto. I was talking to the controller, I explained to him what I had seen. I could hear Mrs Emery’s daughter screaming out ‘mum, mum’.”
Toxicologist Gayle Harrison, from Southmead Hospital, Bristol, examined Mrs Emery’s blood as part of the post mortem and found low levels of amitriptyline and tramadol.
The court heard the drugs were prescribed to Mrs Emery as painkillers for ongoing ankle pain and in some cases they could cause drowsiness and low sodium levels.
Assistant coroner Peter Harrowing, sitting at Flax Bourton, near Bristol, said at the time of the collision Mrs Emery’s concentration was reduced by the prescription medication.
He said: “We have heard evidence from the interview of her daughter who described her head dropping down to the side and shortly afterwards the car drifted to the opposite side of the carriageway where sadly she collided with the ongoing Voyager driven by Mr Evans.
“The description of her head fallen to one side, as well as the lack of any evasive action from that point onwards strongly suggests to me that whilst she may not have been unconscious, her level of consciousness was impaired.
“There is no evidence that any other vehicle was not being driven properly.
"I believe that the prescribed medication and particularly the low sodium level was a particular feature.”