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Young parents-to-be killed in lorry crash after give way sign was 'rotated the wrong way'
12 February 2024, 13:46
Two young expectant parents were killed in a car crash at a junction where the give way sign was "rotated" away.
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Josh Alexander, 21, and Jessica Poole, 18, were killed when a lorry smashed into their car in Woodchurch, Kent, last June.
They were travelling to a Chinese takeaway job they had picked up to make some more money ahead of their son being born in November.
The inquest into their deaths heard how police believe a rotated give way sign and worn-down road markings might have contributed to the tragedy.
PC Simon Masterson, a forensic collision investigator with Kent Police, said Mr Alexander did not realise he was coming to a junction.
"The give way sign on Plurenden Road, which was 11 metres from the junction, was rotated by 61 degrees," he said.
"The road markings were heavily worn in several places. The approach triangle was also worn but discernible.
"There were no warning signs at Plurenden Road of the crossroads ahead. This could have caused confusion to the driver approaching.
"The worn lines and the rotated sign could have been a contributing factor."
Footage taken from the dashcam of the skip lorry showed how Mr Alexander and Ms Poole's Corsa approaches the junction at a "constant speed" and did not show any sign of slowing down.
Mr Alexander looks calm and in control, within the 60mph speed limit, but he may have been distracted by his phone, with PC Masterson saying his arm appeared to stretch out to touch the device.
It is thought he could have been using a navigation app, having only moved to the area in April.
"Josh failed to recognise he was approaching a junction," PC Masterson said.
"He interacts with a mobile phone immediately before entering Bethersden Road.
"His actions suggest he was not aware of the junction ahead."
The officer tested three apps that failed to alert a crossroad was ahead.
There was also "nothing" the skip lorry driver could have done to avoid the accident.
Coroner Katrina Hepburn said she will write to Kent County Council asking what improvements have been made at the junction.
"There was nothing to suggest they were travelling at excessive speed," she concluded.
"Whilst we speculate about whether or not he saw the sign, or if the mobile phone was in use, I don't make any findings in relation to this.
"The crash caused significant and catastrophic injuries and the deaths were due to a road traffic collision."
Kent County Council said: "We are aware of the inquests and we await the letter from the coroner.
"Whenever there is a serious or fatal crash on one of our roads we work with Kent Police, expert engineers and coroners to investigate any causation factors that are identified.
"Once these are known we carry out any work deemed to be needed to help mitigate a similar incident from happening again.
"One death on our roads is one too many and we will continue to make sure we keep our roads safe."
Mr Alexander's father Ben Sissens described his son as his "proudest achievement" and called for the junction to be made safer.
"If he was doing 40mph, he may have seen the road markings a bit easier," he said.
"What has happened is horrific. It has ripped the families apart and I want to make sure other babies can go home to their families.
"I've spoken to the other driver and I have told him we don't blame him."
Aimee Poole, Ms Poole's mother, said: "Jessica was a beautiful girl. She was my best friend and I would choose her company over anyone.
"The huge gap left in my life is indescribable."