Car park owners fined over death of great grandmother

Gertrude Donaldson.
Gertrude Donaldson.

The managers of a car park have been fined £95,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 costs following the death of a pensioner who was hit by a delivery van.

Jaymar Estates Ltd, which manages the Station House car park near Kendal Railway Station where 91-year-old Gertrude Donaldson was fatally hit, admitted breaching health and safety legislation.

Gertrude Donaldson.

Gertrude Donaldson.

Great grandmother Mrs Donaldson, of Ash Meadow Crescent, Kendal, was walking back from the Station House doctors’ surgery on October 28, 2009 when she was hit by a delivery van that was reversing through the car park.

South Lakeland District Council took action against Jaymar Estates Ltd, of Cardinal House, St Mary’s Parsonage, Manchester, following the incident.

In Carlisle Crown Court on Monday the firm was fined £95,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £50,000 after admitting breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The court heard that at the time of the incident the car park was in a poor state of repair with no clearly marked areas to separate pedestrians and vehicles. Parking bays for vehicles were not clearly marked either. The state of the car park led to Mrs Donaldson being in the path of the reversing van.

Judge Peter Hughes said: “The state of the car park had been a cause of concern for a year.”

He added that although there had been a number of factors involved in the accident “the primary responsibility for the accident must rest with Jaymar itself. It was Jaymar that was responsible for the overall operation of the car park”.

After the hearing, Mrs Donaldson’s family said in a statement: “Mum was a fit and active 91-year-old, she was completely ‘with it’, despite her age.

“On the day of her death she chose to walk to the surgery because it was a nice day, a reasonable distance for her to walk which shows how well she was.

“She was the head of a large family and to have her snatched away from us like that was a real shock that will live with us forever.

“We are happy that the judge has sent a clear message about companies’ responsibilities to people’s health and safety.

“Prior to mum’s death issues about safety in the car park had already been raised with Jaymar and we are four years and seven months down the line and only now have they acknowledged their breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act and that this breach made a sufficient contribution to mum’s fatal accident.

“We are all just so grateful to SLDC for pursuing this so vigorously.”

David Sykes, SLDC Director of People and Places, said: “We have acted to enforce the health and safety requirements on those who have a duty of care towards members of the public using their property.

“We hope this outcome helps the family of Mrs Donaldson to find a resolution to what has been a most tragic event.”

Known as Babs, Mrs Donaldson had seven sons and one daughter and had 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Born in 1918, before the Second World War she trained as a registered nurse and children’s nurse in Carlisle and Edinburgh.

She served in India during the Second World War with the Queen Alexandra’s Nursing Corps and married her husband Sidney in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1945.

She spent her life working in the health service and was very highly regarded as a nurse, specialising in looking after special care babies.