THE deaths of a mother, her son and their work colleague who died in a tragic car accident could have been prevented, according to police and traffic officials.
Iwona Bartczak, 40, her son, Konrad, 18 and Ryszard Orlowski, 47, died after they crashed head-on with a Citroen van on the brow of a hill on the B1248. Both vehicles were then engulfed by flames.
They were travelling from Hull at about 5.30am on Wednesday, November 27, last year, to work at the Malton bacon factory, an inquest at Scarborough Town Hall was told, when Iwona, who was driving the car, tried to overtake a lorry, but she crashed into the oncoming van as both drivers swerved to avoid a crash.
The two other passengers in the car, Damian Zienski and Maksym Lebiest, who were sitting in the back seat next to Ryszard, survived the crash despite not wearing their seatbelts. They both suffered serious injuries and Maksym is still in hospital in Hull where police officers say he is struggling to walk after sustaining life-changing injuries.
Keith Skinner, of Pickering, who was driving the van said that he “felt blood trickling down his nose” after the impact and started to panic when he could not get out of his van. “I could see a flame of about a foot high and panic set in,” he said. “I thought at that moment that I was going to die. I felt sick and I knew the accident was pretty bad.”
Mr Skinner, who suffered numerous injuries, including a broken collar bone, was dragged to safety by Christopher Strong, who passed the collision on his way to work. Mr Strong, of Flamborough, said: “One man was screaming and screaming, so I put my coat over him and tried to calm him down.”
Mr Zienski, speaking through a Polish translator to the coroner’s court, said: “Maks was shouting, ‘help, help’. I told him I was going to have to lie on his leg, so that I could smash the glass to get out of the car.”
After escaping, the car was rapidly becoming engulfed by flames and Mr Zienski tried to drag Maksym out before another driver who had stopped to help, Adrian Potts, helped to drag Maksym to safety.
In a statement read out to the court, Maksym said he remembered Ryszard shouting “brake, brake” and that Iwona had been an “erratic and chaotic driver”.
Despite efforts by Mr Potts and Mr Strong, the flames engulfed the car in which Ryszard, Iwona and Konrad were trapped.
North Yorkshire Police Traffic Constable David Taylor said that Ryszard’s head was under the front seat of the car and Iwona and Konrad, who were in the front two seats had suffered fatal injuries due to the impact of the three back passengers being thrown forward.
The post-mortem showed that Iwona suffered a ruptured heart and lungs whilst Konrad had an injury to his brain and a fractured skull.
TC Taylor said that none of the three passengers in the back had been wearing their seatbelts but that analysis of the Ford Focus showed that Iwona and her son had.
Speaking after the inquest, Traffic Sergeant Andy Fraser of North Yorkshire Police said that had the other passengers been wearing their seatbelts it is possible that Iwona, Konrad and Ryszard could have survived, if the car had not caught fire.
“The surviving passengers sustained extensive injuries by not wearing their seat belts,” he said.
He said that the impact of them being thrown forward had “caused extensive damage to the two front passengers.”
Recording a verdict of accidental death, Scarborough County Court coroner Michael Oakley said that the heroic efforts of Mr Potts and Mr Strong should be praised.
He said: “Mr Potts and Mr Strong should be commended. They were extremely brave to carry out the actions that they did bearing in mind that an explosion of these vehicles could have taken place at any time.”