A GRANDFATHER was crushed to death by his wife?s car after she jumped out of it without setting the handbrake when she saw him collapse, an inquest heard.
Jane Ramsell, 64, realised her husband Philip, 77, had fallen over when he went to open the gate of a retirement complex off Wargrave Road, Henley, where his mother-in-law lived, as they returned from a week?s holiday.
But she forgot to set the handbrake when she jumped out of the automatic Honda CVR, which had been left in drive, and it rolled forwards over Mr Ramsell.
The inquest at Reading town hall on Tuesday heard how Mrs Ramsell later told the family that he had died ?peacefully?, not mentioning that it was her car that killed him.
The court heard how Mrs Ramsell drove into the driveway at 9.30pm on September 14 last year to drop off her mother Dorothy Lumley, 91, following a holiday in Wales together.
Mr Ramsell then got out of the back of the car to enter a security code to open the gate but then appeared to ?lean backwards? and fall to the ground.
Mrs Ramsell told the court: ?I knew there was a problem but before I could do anything, he?d gone through the pedestrian gate. It was quite horrific, to be honest with you.?
She jumped out of the car ? while the engine was still running ? and ran to help her husband before changing her mind and opening the back door to get her mobile phone to call the emergency services.
Mrs Ramsell only managed to enter the first 9 of 999 when her mother shouted from the front passenger seat that the car was moving and she leapt back into the driver?s seat.
In a statement read to the court, Mrs Lumley said: ?I heard Jane say, ?Phil?s fallen, I must go to him.? Jane jumped out of the car.
?I could sense that the car was moving. I shouted ?the car?s moving, the car?s moving.? I know I said it twice.?
She said she then heard a ?thud? but did not feel the car roll over her son-in-law.
Mrs Ramsell told the hearing: ?When I got into the car it was moving, it was rolling. I thought I?d stopped in time and I went to the front of the car thinking Philip would be there.
?Then I saw his feet sticking out from under the car.? She admitted that she had not put the handbrake on or put the vehicle into neutral before going to her husband?s aid, saying she was in shock from witnessing her husband fall over.
Police, firefighters and paramedics raced to the scene and used specialist equipment and airbags to jack-up the vehicle but Mr Ramsell was declared dead at 9.59pm.
Police sergeant James Atkinson said he could clearly see ?a pair of legs? sticking out of the vehicle when he arrived.
Paramedic Robert Daiziel, part of a rapid response unit called to the scene, said he saw a man being ?pinned to the road?.
A post-mortem examination found the pensioner had died from compression asphyxiation after being crushed by the weight of the car, which fractured his sternum and broke his ribs.
The court heard Mrs Ramsell did not contact her husband?s family until the following day, nor did she inform the police that Mr Ramsell had three children from a previous relationship. His son Simon Ramsell said that he only found out his father had been run over when he read it in a national newspaper.
Mrs Ramsell admitted she had not explained the tragic circumstances of the death to relatives and ?just said he?d died?.
She told the coroner Peter Bedford: ?It was very difficult. I was on my own, my husband was dead and I?ve got a 91-year-old mother.
?I was in shock for about a week. It was such a traumatic experience and I wouldn?t wish anyone to see what I saw.?
Mr Ramsell?s son said a friend had sent him a text about the news article which revealed his father had been run over.
He said: ?I was very confused and upset to find out that my dad had not died in peaceful circumstances.?
Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Bedford said: ?Any suggestion that Mrs Ramsell has moved her foot on the accelerator and driven over her husband would not be supported by the evidence.
?What is absolutely clear is that when the car rolled over Mr Ramsell, as it clearly did, Mr Ramsell himself was lying on the floor.
?It is only fair to acknowledge the shock, horror and confusion while these events are taking place. For Mrs Ramsell, who was living these events as they took place before her very eyes, it was totally traumatic and totally unexpected.
?If the family are critical of why she didn?t contact them in a timely manner, I think there is a very clear reason why that is the case and it can?t simply be put aside for sinister reasons.
?From the evidence before me, Peter Ramsell died on September 14 in Henley-on-Thames. The conclusion I will record is simply one of an accident.?
In a statement issued after the inquest, Simon Ramsell and his sister said: ?We are still deeply saddened and confused about the sudden tragic death of our father in terrible circumstances and regret that at today?s inquest we do not feel the coroner was able to fully establish the facts surrounding the incident.?
Mr Ramsell?s daughter Angela Steatham paid tribute to her ?brilliantly clever? father, who worked in the furnace industry for steel and raised £25,000 for the Macmillan Cancer Support during a 900-mile from Land?s End to John O?Groats in 2010, which raised £25,000.
?He was a great raconteur and brilliantly clever,? she said.
?He did his Phd when he was in his seventies. He was brilliant, dynamic, stubborn and a great support of his family.?
She urged the motor industry to introduce safety measures to ensure automatic cars couldn?t move forwards without a driver.
?On boats you have a cord, you have a handle on trains, but the car industry does not have a safety system when the driver gets out,? said Mrs Streatham.
?You have seat belts and airbags but when it?s in drive, the car is able to move and in this case kill my father.?
She said Mrs Ramsell should have informed the family of the true circumstances of the death earlier.
?The death of your father is absolutely devastating and this was not a natural case,? she said.