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Alonzo Stephen PALMER - Inquest of 4 March 1910


     [From the" Wisbech Standard" ?]
THE MOTOR-CAR ACCIDENT AT WISBECH
THE INQUEST
Mr. Alonzo Stephen PALMER, who was injured in the shocking motor-car accident at Wisbech last week, died on Friday morning, and in the afternoon the inquests were held on the bodies of the two victims of the accident by Mr. T.R. Dawbarn, coroner, at the Public Hall. The bodies which were lying at the mortuary were those of Tom GARNER, aged 39, landlord of the Engineer's Tavern, Victoria Road, Wisbech; and Alonzo Stephen PALMER, aged 30, engineer, Lynn Road, Wisbech. Mr. G.E. OGLE was foreman of the jury; Mr. CHEW, assistant solicitor to the G.E.R., represented the Company; Mr. J.H. DENNIS appeared for the Garner family; Mr. Ollard represented Mr. Callow and the Palmer family. The inquest upon the late Mr. GARNER was held first, and after the body had been identified by deceased's brother. Thomas Frederick Charles CALLOW, cycle agent at Wisbech, and living at Walsoken, said that on the previous afternoon GARNER and PALMER left the Engineer's Tavern in a motor-car belonging to Mr. T.P. CAVANAGH, and witness accompanied them on a bicycle. PALMER was driving, and they were all perfectly sober. It was an old one cylinder, six horse-power car. They went along the Queen's Road and up the North Brink, where they stayed at the Imperial Crown for about an hour and had three small bottles of beer each. On leaving there they proceeded into Weasenham Lane, and when they approached the level crossing there the gates were closed, so he rode ahead of the car about fifty yards to open the gates. The motor-car did not stop at all. He opened the first gate nearest the South Brink and walked across the line and opened the other gate. He then returned across the line to the first gate, where he had left his bicycle. He got hold of the gate to close it, and the car passed at his back. When he was closing the gate he could not see up the line because there was a high hedge and a hovel. Neither did he hear anything except the motor. He had forgotten that the 5.40 train was due. Before he closed the gate he suddenly saw a train arrive at the crossing, and the car ran into the tender of the engine. The car was badly damaged, and was knocked into a garden at the side of the rails. GARNER, who was against the front wheel of the car, was quite dead when he reached him, and he went to PALMER, who was lying across the signal wires a little further on. PALMER was alive when he reached him, but was badly hurt. The first persons who came to his assistance were two porters. He had no recollection of seeing the fireman from the train. PALMER was driving at the time of the accident, and they were all sober. In answer to Mr. CHEW, witness said that no-one asked him to go up and open the gates. He rode on ahead on his own initiative. he was sorry to say that when he crossed and re-crossed the line he did not look to see if there was any train coming. By Mr. OLLARD; He did not hear a train whistle. If he did not chance to look down the line there was nothing in any way to show him that a train was approaching. By Mr. CHEW; He should say that it was possible to see down the line the best part of a mile. By Mr. DENNIS; The hedge and the shed that obstructed his view were on the road side of the gate. There was nothing at the gate by which he could have signalled to the gatekeeper that he wanted to open the gates. Charles GOAKES, foreman platelayer on the G.E.R., said he resided at the gatehouse at the Weasenham Lane crossing, and it was his wife's duty to look after the gates. He had just arrived home from work on Thursday evening and had gone into his garden, on the opposite side of the railway line with his wife. He saw the 5.40 train from March when it was about three miles away, and the crossing gates were then closed. Just as the train was approaching the crossing he saw a man run across the line towards the South Brink side. From where he stood he could not see the South Brink gate, and he at once shouted to the man, whom he now knew to be CALLOW, not to open the gate. He did not know at that time that CALLOW had opened both gates. When he shouted he started to run towards the gates, waving his arms and shouting and trying to attract CALLOW's attention to prevent his opening the gates, but CALLOW did not appear to hear him and he took no notice. As witness ran he saw and heard the motor-car and saw that there were two persons in it. It came on to the line and struck the tender of the engine, and was rolled over and over. He saw one man thrown out above the motor-car, but did not see the other man. He thought both men had been instantly killed, and he ran to Wisbech station for assistance. In answer to questions, he said there were no means of locking the gates except by a padlock. Martha GOAKES, wife of the previous witness, gave corroborative evidence, and replying to questions, she said she always went and opened the gates when a vehicle came up and stopped at the gate, but people in vehicles and on foot often opened the gates and crossed before she was aware they were there. Dr. M. TYLOR said he was called to the spot, and found GARNER lying by the side of the line quite dead, with his skull split open and the brain destroyed. Alfred E. WANFORD said he was fireman on the 5.40 train on the previous day. When the engine arrived within six or severn yards of the crossing he saw the motor-car, and there was not even then time to sound the engine's whistle before the car ran into the tender. The right wheel of the car ran into the left side of the tender, and the car was knocked over. He saw the gatekeeper running towards the crossing waving his hands. The jury, after a short consultation, returned a verdict of "Accidental death." They added no rider to the verdict, but suggested to the company that the crossing was insufficiently guarded and that there should be more efficient means to prevent people who were careless from crossing the line when they liked. Mr. CHEW said that he would see that the representations of the jury were forwarded to the proper quarters. The inquest concerning the death of PALMER was then proceeded with, Mr. CALLOW repeating the evidence he had previoulsy given. Dr. BULLIMORE said he was called to the scene of the accident, and found PALMER was alive, but suffering from a severe scalp wound. He was attended to and taken into the gate-house. Dr. GIMSON said he was called in as deceased's medical attendant, and he remained with him until 4.30 on Friday morning. He was not surprised afterwards to hear that hea was dead, as his injury was a very serious one. The cause of death was fracture of the base of the skull. The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death," and made the same representationto the Company as they had in the previous case.
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My thanks to Jean Matthews who supplied a copy of the original news-cutting.
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This page created 25 June 2002 and amended 18:35 30/01/2005