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Gran, 61, relives crash ordeal

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: November 23, 2012

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  • KICKER HERE: Alison and Brian Palmer, at their home.

  • LUCKY TO BE ALIVE: Alison Palmer, pictured right with her husband Brian, still has nightmares about being trapped in her car.

  • The remains of Alison Palmer's vehicle after the crash in the compound

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A BRAVE grandmother, lucky to be alive after her car was crushed by a 26-tonne lorry, has spoken for the first time of her terrifying ordeal.

Alison Palmer, of Menacuddle Lane, St Austell, was trapped for more than two hours inside her car with a truck on top of her vehicle, and fuel pouring over her.

The 61-year-old Cornwall Council employee was driving to work with a colleague when the crash happened.

She said: "I didn't expect to get out of there alive. It must have happened in seconds but it felt like slow motion."

Although her young passenger, Hayley Mitchell, was able to get free from the crumpled Mazda, Mrs Palmer was trapped by the vehicle's steering column.

"I felt helpless. I couldn't reach the door. I was just trying to hit buttons. The lorry driver ended up with front wheels on the back bumper and that caused the fuel tank to crash through the windscreen."

The grandmother of three said: "Fuel was pumping all over me. I was panicking; I couldn't remember how volatile diesel was. I was absolutely soaked in diesel and I just kept thinking 'I am going to die', how long do you burn for before you die and how long does the pain last?"

Staff from nearby businesses and workmen courageously tried to assist however they could until emergency services arrived.

Her husband and St Austell town councillor for Poltair ward, Brian Palmer, arrived too but could only watch helplessly from the large cordon that had been set up.

Mrs Palmer was eventually freed by firefighters and airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Treliske, Truro, where she was found to be relatively unscathed.

But, despite the crash happening in June last year, just outside Truro city centre, the horror hasn't ended for Mrs Palmer.

She is still recovering from injuries sustained in the crash and continues to have nightmares.

"It might seem strange but I didn't cry after my own crash but four months later when I read about the M5 crash (November 5, 2011), I cried for those strangers.

"I just hoped that they were unconscious or already dead before the fire so they didn't have to think or feel what I had thought," she said.

She has bravely agreed to speak out now to the Cornish Guardian after spending six months trying to understand why legal proceedings against the lorry driver, who pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving and was due to stand trial at Truro Crown Court, were dropped.

A letter sent in March this year from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), confirmed to the couple its reasons. It said the prosecution had relied on a report by a VOSA vehicle examiner which stated the driver of the truck belonging to the haulage firm should have been aware of the defective brakes before the collision.

The driver, supported partly by two colleagues, said the brakes appeared to work correctly, shortly before the crash.

But an assessment by an expert on behalf of the driver could not take place because the vehicle had been returned to the company and disposed of before legal proceedings began.

Mrs Palmer added: "I would like to think if I was seriously hurt or killed they would have carried on regardless."

Her husband, a retired Metropolitan police officer, said he was angry at the CPS for dropping the case and questioned why action wasn't taken against the firm.

A CPS spokesman said the decision to drop the case had been taken after "careful consideration" on the understanding a fair trial would not be possible.

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  • kimmyp  |  November 23 2012, 11:12AM

    Why was the lorry returned and allowed to be disposed of before any decision or inspections carried out? surely the lorry was evidence. Obviously I don't know all the facts but it speaks volumes that they were so quick to get rid of the lorry. From reading this it sounds like Mrs Palmer has been terribly let down by all involved. A terrifying ordeal now compounded by the fact she will never get any answers as to why this happened to her.

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