UK

Schoolchildren And Lollipop Lady Hit As Driver Suffers 'Coughing Fit' At Wheel

20/06/2013 20:01 BST | Updated 21/06/2013 11:36 BST

A schoolgirl remains in intensive care after a freak car accident at a primary school apparently caused by a driver's coughing fit.

Eight other people - a school lollipop lady, the driver of the car, two other adults and four children - were injured in the incident.

Residents in the village of Rhoose, Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales, witnessed the crash.

rhoose

Police officers stands outside Rhoose Primary School in Rhoose, Wales, where a car flipped over which left nine people injured, including five children

Anxious parents ran with their children in alarm after hearing a loud bang at 8.55am, which many took to be a gunshot.

It was in fact an Audi driven by a 61-year-old man, named locally as Robert Bell, who was said to have suffered a coughing fit at the wheel.

He is believed to have lost control of the car and it landed on its roof.

The lollipop lady was named locally as Karin Williams.

A nine-year-old girl remains in a serious condition in paediatric intensive care at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales.

Mr Bell is still helping police with their inquiries.

He was among those injured in the collision, and is understood to have been ferrying his grandchild to the Fontgary Road school at the time.

Local councillor Jeffrey James described what he claimed was the cause of the accident.

He was quickly on the scene this morning, and spoke to emergency services staff soon after.

"The driver has apparently said he had a coughing fit, and hit the accelerator instead of the brake and lurched, hitting the crossing attendant and the children waiting to cross or starting to cross," he said.

"He must have swerved and then tipped over the car. It was on its roof."

Superintendent Joe Ruddy, of South Wales Police, refused to confirm reports of what could have caused the accident, adding: "It is too early to say at this stage of the investigation."

He said it was not being treated as "a deliberate act", but he said the vehicle had been seized and was undergoing forensic examination. He appealed for witnesses to come forward.

Mr Ruddy added: "Thankfully there were no fatalities, and some of those injured have been discharged from hospital having received treatment.

"Our thoughts remain with those who remain in hospital and their families during this difficult time."

A spokesman for the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board confirmed that two casualties had been released from the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend.

"The adult and child with minor injuries have been discharged from the Emergency Department.The woman admitted earlier today remains in a stable condition in hospital," the spokesman said.

Residents in Rhoose spoke today of their shock.

Glenys Watson, 64, who runs the Coffee Time cafe yards from the crash scene, comforted mothers and children who came into her shop in shock within minutes of the accident.

In the initial confusion some mothers thought a gun had been fired, and a shout went out for people to "run", she said.

She added: "One mother told me that people heard a big bang and thought a gun had been fired. They all ran. Nobody knew what was happening."

She said she arrived at work just before 9am, a few minutes after the accident.

"This is a sleepy little village, nothing like this ever happens here. It's only ever busy when the school goes in in the morning and comes out in the afternoon.

"But when I arrived everything was silence. It was a total contrast to normal."

She said that, within minutes, mothers and children began arriving at the cafe, some in tears.

"Mums started coming in the shop and were quite traumatised, everybody was shaking, the children were trembling. I can't tell you how I feel myself at the moment. It's terrible."

Natalie Morgan, 35, arrived at the school to drop off her daughter and was greeted by a scene of devastation.

She said: "I was on the scene within a minute of it all happening and children were very distraught and upset.

"I tried to hide what had happened from my daughter and took her in, because the school wanted to carry on as usual."

She went on: "I've been concerned for a long time that something like this could happen, even if it doesn't prove to be speeding.

"But cars speed back to and from the school in both directions all the time. Something needs to be done about that."