Bereavement due to traumatic death

Pedestrian deaths

In 2014, 1,775 people died on the roads in Great Britain. Of those 797 were killed in a car crash, 339 killed when driving a motorbike and 113 killed when using a bicycle (see ‘Road and railway deaths’) and 446 pedestrians were killed.

Martin’s wife, Steph, for example, was standing on the pavement when a bus hit her.
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Martin’s wife was killed when a bus went out of control. Martin arrived at the scene moments...

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Age at interview: 43
Sex: Male
My wife was a lollipop lady at our daughter’s school. She worked, she had two jobs, the lollipopping was something she really enjoyed even though it was only pocket money for her, really. It’s one little way she had some independence and liked to contribute to the house. She was, she was 35, our daughter was 5 at the time, and so it was a, it was a handy little job because our daughter would sometimes come out of school, and if I was working then she’d wait with her Mum at the lights and help her, and press the buttons and that kind of thing.
And in September 2006 a bus went out of control, crossed the central reservation onto the pavement and hit my wife, Steph, while she was on the pavement, and it was a full size single decker bus. It killed her instantly. I was off work that week and I was picking our daughter up from school and Steph was standing just, kind of, I was only about 100 yards away, but Steph was just round a little blind corner, so I couldn’t quite see the crossing, but I heard the crash and I ran, like I was the first on the scene, and basically I was, you know, I was the first one there.
How awful, I’m so sorry.
You can imagine what I saw.
I went into that hysterical shock, I was screaming, I was swearing, I only remember very, oh subtle little flash backs now, it’s just over two, two years now, but the little things I can remember, the daft things like the sunshine, I remember screaming, “My wife, my wife,” and I remember just the look of horror on people’s faces, the parents that you, you see, day in day out, and just with their hands clasped to their faces, and crying, and what, parents started screaming, I slumped against the, what was left of the school wall, and I couldn’t go up to Steph, I do, I just, I couldn’t, I couldn’t do it, just, because I knew, I knew straight away, it’s hard to explain why I knew but I just, I just knew straightaway. I vaguely remember the bus driver looking under the bus as well, and suddenly in what seemed like a few seconds there was the ambulances and the police there, they were there really, really quickly, I can’t praise them enough.
The next few minutes are quite a blur, I just remember asking this particular ambulance driver if she was, if she was alright, and he kept sitting me down against the wall telling me to wait there, so that kind of reinforced my first instinct that she was dead. And eventually, I just asked him, I said, “Is she gone?” I remember, the very words, and he said, “Yes, I’m afraid she has.” And you just can’t, millions of things are going through you, your mind. I just, I don’t think I cried to be honest with you, I just, the shock was so great, oh automatically, because I’m, maybe it’s just the sort of person I am thinking about the future, straight away, not, not even the short term future, I’m thinking about this void that’s ahead for the rest of my life, I don’t, I don’t know why I thought that at the time, but it was just something that I vividly remember thinking, my life has changed forever and it, and then the actual grief of missing Steph and you know I wanted to spend the rest of my life, we had a happy marriage, the actual grief didn’t start for a good few hours.
Stephen’s brother, Tony, was killed by a drunk driver when he was crossing the road. Stephen was seriously injured too.

Stephen remembers being semi-conscious in hospital after he was knocked down. His family was...

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Age at interview: 49
Sex: Male
Well like I said, it was a nineteen-year-old youth. Police said he was two and half times over the drink driving limits. Obviously over twice the speed limit which is thirty miles an hour on that particular road. And like I said there we were all just walking home. And it was a nice clear night, January and we were almost a couple of steps away from the kerb on to the other side of the road.
And just from out of the blue this car was upon us. And witness statements said that my brother was kind of catapulted into the air and onto the ground. My brother in law was sideswiped down the car, so luckily he got minor injuries.
And I was thrown onto the bonnet into the windscreen, onto the roof. And as he was braking, obviously I made the falling motion back down again onto the floor.
Pulling windscreen glass out of my arm for about a week.
On the particular night I found out I was resuscitated twice. And I almost lost my leg because of the severity of the injury to it. So it is so clear in my mind today as it was almost three years ago now.
And it was then I thought this is it, I’m going to die because I thought this is how it’s going to be. And its, it’s all hazy from then on in. I remember being in the ambulance hearing the noise of the sirens as it’s taking me to the hospital.
And the next thing I know is, I’m being wheeled through the corridors. And from that I think it, it was just like every now and again just opening my eyes to see I was in somewhere different. I was in cat scans, doctors round me, people trying to again straighten the leg and put an inflatable splint on.
Just trying and keep it straight. And it was like several hours I think about, about eight hours before I was actually told that my brother had died.
That must’ve been a terrible moment.
It was. It was surreal actually. I mean because of the drugs they were giving me to keep away the pain, I was in and out of consciousness. And I was in like a dreamlike state. I mean like I said I knew full well what had happened. We’d been in a bad accident. But I thought I was probably just dreaming like a nightmare saying that my brother was dead.
Who told you?
The whole family. When I came to it was about nine thirty on the Sunday morning. And when I opened my eyes, again I thought you know I must be dreaming again because there’s every member of the family all around me the bed, from my feet all the way to my head and back down to the feet again. And without even saying anything I just glanced through everybody’s face to try and find my brother.
And of course he wasn’t there. And when I asked, my mother and my brother’s son was standing beside me, and when I asked her, I mean you could see that absolutely devastated by the look on her face, I knew something was bad.
And she let my nephew tell me. And technically he died when he hit the ground. And he was kept alive by a life support machine.
Where they found out he was brain dead.  
What was your immediate feeling?
I wouldn’t believe it.  
Dean’s son, Andrew, was hit by a car driven by a man who was not insured and who was driving illegally.

Dean was deeply shocked when the police called him to tell him that his son had been in an...

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Age at interview: 66
Sex: Male
It was on Wednesday 24th May 2006, approximately 2.45 in the afternoon, I was called by the police informing me that my son was in a car accident. They arranged to collect me from the place I work, and take me to the hospital where my son was taken. We got there about 4.45, 5 o’clock thereabout because the traffic was awful, and I was asked to wait in the waiting room while the doctors, one of the doctors come out to see me… It was at that point in time I understood my son had passed away. It was one of a severe shock.
Of course.
Denial, could not comprehend what had happened.
Who told you? Was it the doctor?
The registrar in the hospital told me that they’d tried their best but they could not revive him. The awful thing about it, that my son that morning went to university, he had already gained a first class honours degree in law, and he was about to graduate in his Masters, and awaiting a place at Harvard University. He was a young man who spent all his time at home studying. Mum was best friend he’s ever had. Parties, socialising was not his scene, but that particular day he had agreed to meet some friends up in London after the morning paper, to go out and see a movie, and to have a meal out. The very first time in five or six years that he would have planned to go out and spend an evening out, and saying to Mum that “Mum you don’t mind if I get back about ten, ten thirty? Could you all pick me up from the station?” Mum agreed to that.
It was a normal day, it was like anything else, I dropped my wife, Sarjit and Andrew at the station, saw them off and I went into work. And for some unknown reason I didn’t feel well that day. I don’t know whether it’s a premonition, or it was feeling, I felt awful. My wife who was also in a meeting that particular day with the department of health, she couldn’t concentrate on the meeting, she had an awful feeling, a tummy feeling, a numbness of her leg, her stomach was churning over, and she could not explain. I’m sorry it’s a bit disjointed but…
It’s alright.
I was at the hospital. I was taken there by the police, and a good friend of mine, and I was asked to wait while they brought Andrew out. The last, the first thing I saw was my son lying there lifeless.
Were you on your own?
I was on my own at the time.
My wife was going to come in later because some friends of mine, some doctors who I was working with, they decided to pick her up and fetch her in to the hospital.
Were you allowed to stay with your son for a while?
I was allowed to stay with my son. He was battered and bruised. Lifeless. A young man, who had such fun and joy and someone to talk to and love, and joking. Just lying there in a mortuary.
Had he been hit by a car?
He was hit by a car, he was hit, four houses away from where we were living, at the bus stop here. It was about 2.45 in the afternoon, apparently these three young fellows in a car, unlicensed and uninsured, nothing at all they had, came speeding down the road, but as far as they were concerned they were doing 30 miles an hour, the car hit Andrew, flipped over and landed on its, upside down. I’m surprised with the devastation it caused, that they themselves did not die in the accident.
They were lucky. They got out and walked free except for the driver who landed up in hospital, with a fractured leg only. The hospital cared for him obviously, they gave all the attention for us, we felt a great loss. 
William’s 15 year old daughter, Lauren, was dropped off a bus on the hard shoulder of a dual carriageway a few feet past the “End of motorway sign”. She crossed the dual carriageway and was hit by a lorry. She died almost at once.

William heard on the radio news that a serious accident had closed the road. He phoned home and a...

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Age at interview: 48
Sex: Male
Lauren was an outstanding actress, and she used to enjoy acting, singing, dancing, generally performing, and she was selected to participate in a specific event in 2005 called A Night of Shakespeare, and on that particular day her school was taking her to the city to rehearse, for A Night of Shakespeare, and that was on the 21st June 2005. And rehearsals progressed throughout the day, but the party began to run late, and she was returning from the city towards her home town, around an hour later than was anticipated and I think she began to worry that she was going to miss her connecting bus and so she asked the teacher, who was in charge of the group, if she could get off at a location that would have brought her back home slightly earlier. And that was at the side of a motorway. And the teacher just referred her to the bus driver, and whatever the bus driver and Lauren said to each other I don’t know, but it resulted in the bus pulling to the side of a motorway, and Lauren disembarking. And the bus drove off, and she attempted to cross I guess four lanes of traffic, and she made it across three lanes, but when she tried to cross the fourth lane she was hit by a lorry, traveling at between 50 and 60 miles an hour. And a later inquest stated that unconsciousness was almost instantaneous and death would’ve followed shortly thereafter.
So around sort of 6pm on that day I was pulling into a petrol station near where I work, to fill up with petrol, and I just heard on the radio news that the motorway near Lauren’s house was closed due to a serious accident, so I decided to phone home to see if Lauren had got home safely before the accident. And when I got through to the house her mummy answered and said that there, there were policemen in the house and one of them wanted to speak to me. And so the policeman came on the phone and he said that Lauren had been involved in an accident, and he said that I should make my way as quickly as possible, but safely, and I said, “Right, I’ll head home right now.” And he said, “Well make your way down to the hospital because that’s where she’ll be”. So it took me around 20 minutes to drive to the hospital and you know it seemed like much longer at the time.
I’m sure it must’ve been very hard for you.
Yes it was, I could certainly feel the adrenaline working on me during that time, and I suppose I was driving fairly rapidly, but as soon as I made it to the hospital and parked the car and ran down towards the casualty department, I noticed that my father and my son were already there, and they were standing at the door of the casualty unit, and as I tried to make my way over to them to find out what was going on, a policeman took me to one side, and he said, “There’s no easy way to tell you this,” so that immediately triggered the thought that perhaps it was the worst possible news, and I said, “Is she dead?” He said, “Yes she is.” And I remember my initial response was that it would kill my father getting the news, because he’s very elderly anyway, but apparently he’d already been told, so he knew. 

Last reviewed October 2015.
Last updated October 2015.

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