Highways worker, 23, carrying out essential work during Storm Eunice was killed when 18 ton tree fell and crushed his van as it travelled at 30mph along road

  • Jack Bristow, 23, was killed completing essential work during Storm Eunice
  • An 18 ton tree fell and crushed his van as it travelled at 30mph along a road
  • A witness says the van appeared to have ‘hit a solid wall’ because sudden impact
  • Storm Eunice which was the worst storm to batter Britain in more than 30 years 

A highways worker completing essential work during Storm Eunice was tragically killed when an 18 ton tree fell and crushed his van.

Jack Bristow, 23, was in the passenger seat of a flatbed truck when it was ‘crushed beyond recognition’ by the huge tree in February as 70mph winds wreaked havoc across the UK, an inquest heard Tuesday.

He had been out doing essential maintenance work, collecting traffic light equipment that could have posed a significant danger to the public.

The Mercedes-Benz sprinter van was travelling between 20mph and 30mph through the town of Alton, Hants., when the tree toppled and destroyed his truck, killing him instantly.

A motorist driving behind it when the incident happened described how the van appeared to have ‘hit a solid wall’ because the impact of hitting the tree was so sudden.

The tragedy occurred during Storm Eunice which was considered to be the worst storm to batter Britain in more than 30 years. It set a new record for the fastest wind gust recorded in England – 122mph at The Needles, Isle of Wight. 

Highways worker Jack Bristow, 23, as tragically killed when an 18 ton tree fell and crushed his van while he was completing essential work during Storm Eunice

Bristow was in the passenger seat of a flatbed truck when it was ‘crushed beyond recognition’ by the huge tree in February as 70mph winds wreaked havoc across the UK

The inquest into Mr Bristow’s death, held in Winchester, Hants, on Tuesday heard he had been collecting traffic management equipment shortly before the accident in February this year.

The young father and colleague Callum Smith had volunteered to complete the job when asked by a manager earlier that morning.

He had travelled from the depot of company Hooke Highways in Oxford to another depot in Woking, Surrey, before completing a job in Alton.

That job had been brought forward to 9am because the traffic light and signage would have posed a risk to public safety if left out during the storm, the inquest heard.

At around 10am, the Met Office imposed a red weather warning which advised that only essential travel should take place.

After collecting the equipment, Mr Bristow, from Sutton Courtenay, Oxon, and Mr Smith began travelling back to the depot, the inquest heard.

Eyewitness Michael Brown, who was driving behind the van, told the hearing: ‘It all happened so quickly.

‘The tree fell instantly and with precision.

‘The van stopped as though it had hit a solid wall.

‘[After the tree had fallen] it was like a jungle and we couldn’t get to the van.’

The Mercedes-Benz sprinter van was travelling between 20mph and 30mph through the town of Alton, Hants., when the tree toppled and destroyed his truck, killing him instantly

The tragedy occurred during Storm Eunice which was considered to be the worst storm to batter Britain in more than 30 years. It set a new record for the fastest wind gust recorded in England – 122mph at The Needles, Isle of Wight

A police officer who arrived at the scene described how the cab of the van had been ‘crushed beyond recognition’ and a ‘lifeless’ Mr Bristow had suffered ‘catastrophic head injuries.’

In a statement read to the court, Mr Smith, who was driving the van, revealed he ‘never saw the tree start to fall.’

Both men were then trapped inside the stricken vehicle, the inquest heard.

Mr Smith said: ‘Everything went black. I was throwing things at Jack to try to get him to react but I got no response.’

Mr Smith, who is in his 20s, was rushed to Southampton General Hospital with ‘serious injuries’ but survived.

Emergency service responders at the scene estimated that the tree weighed around 18 tons.

Speaking after the incident, 40-year-old handyman Oliver Le Besque, who desperately tried to help free Mr Bristow and Mr Smith, said it was a ‘scene of devastation’ with a ‘river of blood running down the road’.

Tragically Mr Bristow, father to young son Harvey, died at the scene.

Mr Bristow’s mother, Teresa White, told the inquest her son was a ‘happy dad who loved life.’

A motorist driving behind the van when the incident happened described how it appeared to have ‘hit a solid wall’ because the impact of hitting the tree was so sudden

Paying tribute to Mr Bristow, his family said in a statement: ‘We write this with broken hearts. The loss of a son is something you could ever be prepared for.

‘Jack was a much loved son, grandson, boyfriend and father.

‘Everyone knew Jack and everyone loved Jack, how could you not. He was a joker, loved to have a laugh and a good time.

‘He lived life to the full, and had done and been through so much in his young 23 years.

‘We are absolutely devastated and there are not enough words to describe our pain. But he lives on through his son Harvey. Rest in Peace Jack, we love you more than you will ever know.’

Area coroner for Hampshire Jason Pegg said: ‘Some might describe this [incident] as being an act of God.

‘It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

‘He would have passed away immediately.

‘Combined with heavy rain the day before, storm force winds were blowing across Southern England which caused the tree to fall.’

‘You all have my sincere condolences,’ Mr Pegg added to the family.

Source: Read Full Article