A pregnant woman who crashed her car just weeks away from giving birth has blamed the loss of her baby on hitting a pothole.
Nicole Chahal, who was 34 weeks pregnant, lost her baby and almost died when her car overturned on a country road and ploughed, upside down, into a tree.
The 32-year-old’s pelvis was shattered, her femur snapped in half, and she suffered broken ribs and numerous other bones.
She was rushed to hospital and had an emergency Caesarean section but her child was stillborn.
Chahal, who spent 11 weeks in hospital recovering, believes icy conditions and a wide pothole caused the accident on 8 February this year.
But Kent County Council, which is responsible for the road, said it found “no defects” on the road after carrying out an inspection following the accident.
The mother-of-three said: “That morning I dropped my children to school and then I bought my son’s pushchair – it was one of the last things I needed to get before he was born.
“The pushchair was in the car when I crashed. My husband said he had a bad feeling when I wasn’t replying to his messages and started to walk down the road.
“Then he heard the helicopter and saw the fire engines and ambulance. My car was completely wrapped around the tree, it was half the size.”
Chahal was cut out of the car and airlifted to hospital.
She said: “I don’t remember much but I have flashbacks. I remember being in the helicopter, being really cold and feeling really scared. I had no idea what had happened or where I was.
“The next thing I remember is waking up in hospital. There was a woman at the end of my bed and she said ‘I’m so sorry, but the baby doesn’t have a heartbeat’.
“I just started screaming.”
Chahal, from Hildenborough, Kent, said: “Now I’m learning how to walk again with a walking frame. My youngest didn’t even recognise me.
“I used to be happy and pregnant but had turned into a puffed-up woman who wasn’t pregnant anymore.
“It was traumatic – so bad mentally. I couldn’t get my head around it. I still can’t.”
Chahal said: “The police report says that they believe the ice and pothole were factors in the accident. I know the pothole, I remember dodging it all the time. But that morning I didn’t see it.
“There’s a drain on the road, that always pushes out water instead of taking it off the road.
“The man who found me said that day the drain was blasting out water. I think what happened was that the pothole was filled with ice and the wheel fell into it.
“It was minus 6C – unbelievably cold. The police said there was a chunk out of one of the hubcaps, which led them to believe it dipped into something.”
Hildenborough residents have launched a petition to make the road safer in the wake of the tragedy.
Solicitors Moore Blatch are helping Chahal and her family with their compensation claim against the council.
Associate Solicitor Amandeep Khasriya said: “We want to see accidents like this being prevented in the future and one of the ways to do this is by introducing a Quiet Road status to Nizels Lane.
“The local community has come together and submitted a petition to Kent County Council. Currently, 46 out of 58 residents have signed the petition.
“The petition aims to introduce a reduced speed limit of 20mph to Nizels Lane and other traffic calming measures such as preventing HGV’s from driving down the lane.
“Kent County Council is positively engaging with us and this is an ongoing investigation.
“We are working closely with Nicole to ensure that she gets the rehabilitation she needs in order to recover from her injuries which is really positive.”
A Kent County Council spokesman said: “We sympathise with residents regarding the incident earlier this year.
“As a local authority we have to make tough decisions on where to make changes to roads across Kent. Subsequent investigations on Nizels Lane found no defects on the road and there have been no previous incidents prior to February 8.
“It is important to note that we have to be able to directly mitigate against crashes through engineering.
“KCC has to prioritise its remedial works where specific mitigating schemes have been identified to solve a particular road safety matter.”