Unlicensed driver caused fatality

After hearing the circumstances of a fatal vehicle collision, a Coroner’s Jury concluded that an unlicensed driver was at fault.

The jury found that Barb Elvia Wood, 20, had caused the death of Kirby McLennon Whittaker, 51, who was a passenger in the Honda vehicle that Wood struck.

She was driving a Daihatsu Rocky without the owner’s permission.

The collision occurred along Bodden Town Road near Meagre Bay Pond after 11.30 on the night of 30 November 2003.

The jury heard evidence from accident reconstructionist Vincent Walters. He explained that the Rocky was heading west and the Honda was heading east. The point of impact was in the Honda’s lane.

Wood had to negotiate a bend some 400 yards earlier, Mr. Walters said. When he examined the area of the bend he found tyre marks showing that the Rocky went onto the shoulder. The driver then over-steered and went into the east-bound lane, colliding with the Honda.

The Rocky, a higher vehicle, mounted the hood of the Honda, flipped into the air and came to rest on its roof. Wood was thrown from the vehicle. Later examination showed that the Rocky’s seat belts were not in working condition.

The driver of the Honda was taken to hospital. Mr. Whittaker, who was the front seat passenger, was pronounced dead at the scene.

At the time of the accident the weather was clear and dry.

An autopsy on Mr. Whittaker showed that he had died of multiple injuries.

Meanwhile, Wood was treated at George Town Hospital, and then moved to the neurology department of Cemesa Hospital in Honduras. On 2 December, doctors there notified Cayman authorities of Wood’s death.

The jury also heard evidence from the investigating officer, who said he attended the hospital to get blood samples from both drivers to test for alcohol consumption.

He did receive a sample from the driver of the Honda; it was analysed and shown to be under the legal limit.

However, he was not able to obtain a blood sample from Wood because she was undergoing treatment at the time. He did get a sample later; by that time it tested negative for the presence of alcohol.

The jury also heard how Wood had spent the evening before the collision.

An ex-boyfriend said he took her some dinner and then they went to a bar in North Side to socialise. He thought Wood had five or six beers in the course of the evening.

At one point, he noticed that his car was gone from the parking lot and Wood was not around. Then she came back and said she had been practising her driving.

He asked for the keys back and chastised her. She seemed to accept it and sat down and ordered another beer, placing the keys on the bar.

At some point she asked him to take her to Bodden Town to see her boyfriend. He said no because he had had too much to drink.

He continued visiting with other people in the bar. Around 11.30 he noticed that his keys were missing again and Wood was gone.

The inquest was conducted on 15 July by Queen’s Coroner Margaret Ramsay-Hale.

The Coroners Law provides that, where a jury’s verdict charges that the death was caused as the result of an indictable offence by any person, the Coroner must deliver the evidence to the Clerk of the Grand Court.

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