A consultant anaesthetist died after his car crashed into the back of a broken down 32-ton tipper truck which appeared to have one of its hazard lights out, an inquest heard.
“Wonderful and intelligent” Dr Jonathan Ball, 46, ploughed into the truck which was stationary in the nearside lane of a busy bypass on November 24 last year.
Passing motorists said it was an “accident waiting to happen” as it looked like the “mucky” truck's right rear hazard light wasn't on which suggested it was indicating left, an inquest heard.
There were several near misses before the fatal crash along the Bradford-bound carriageway of the Stanningley Bypass at around 7pm.
Wakefield Coroner's Court heard truck driver Javid Northin started work at 6am and did all his normal vehicle checks including brakes, tyres, engine and hazard lights but he did not find any defects.
The 49-year-old was on his way back to a yard in Bradford, along the two-lane carriage when his vehicle – which was carrying soil in a trailer - started to lose power.
The driver noticed an engine malfunction light had illuminated on his dashboard and he coasted into the first lane before the vehicle cut out following what was later found to be an electrical fault.
Mr Northin got out of the wagon but said he was “apprehensive” while waiting for mechanics to arrive after being told it would take up to 40 minutes to reach him.
Giving evidence, Mr Northin said: “There were a few near misses. There were nearly half a dozen. I was waiting for the inevitable to happen.”
Dr Ball, a consultant anaesthetist at Bradford Royal Infirmary, smashed into the back of the DAF tipper truck while travelling at a speed between 55mph and 60mph in a Skoda Yeti.
He died from multiple skull fractures and head trauma following the motor vehicle collision and was pronounced dead at the scene.
In a read statement, witness Amy Armitage, who works as a taxi driver, said: “Just before the exit slip road which takes you to Pudsey I noticed a black Ford Focus in lane one and quite a big white car in front.
“They were slightly ahead of me and I was gaining on them. I would say the Ford Focus was about five car lengths ahead of me but still in lane one when I noticed a big dirty truck in lane one.
“It was under a bridge and after a moment I realised it wasn't moving.
"Almost as soon as I noticed it, the Ford Focus indicated and pulled into lane two. I expected the white car to pull in front of the Focus but it didn't,
“The Ford Focus then put its hazard warning lights on as it passed. I could see that the white car had driven straight into the back of the truck.
“I didn't see the impact because of the Focus. Debris began to fly into lane two as I passed. The Ford Focus pulled in front of the truck and stopped.
“I keep thinking about what happened and I don't understand why the white car didn't see the truck, but myself and the Ford Focus did.
“In my opinion, the truck should have been better lit. It had the rear orange hazard lights flashing but they seemed small for the size of the truck.”
In another read statement, witness Stephanie Marshall, a carer who was driving alone in a blue Peugeot, added: “I saw a tipper truck in front of me in my lane with its left indicator on, it seemed like I had come upon it quite quickly even though I was doing no more than 50mph.
“I put my right indicator on to move out into the right-hand lane to overtake. Luckily someone flashed me out.
"At first, I thought what an idiot to pull over there but as I passed I could see that the lorry had its hazard lights on.
“I realised that the rear right hazard light wasn't working and that's why it looked like it was indicating. The lorry was mucky which did make it harder to see.”
Witness Charles Ernest, a highways supervisor who was driving a Blue Ford Mondeo with his wife Sandra in the passenger seat, said: “The wagon broken down reminded me of an accident years ago when someone went into the back of a grab wagon and the driver was decapitated.
“I remarked to Sandra, you mark my words someone will run into the back of that wagon.”
Dr Ball, who was born in Bristol, was a married man but had separated from his wife Sarah Ball, a senior prison nurse.
He joined the RAF and achieved the rank of wing commander before leaving to become a consultant anaesthetist.
Dr Ball, who lived in Bradford, suffered from a genetic vision condition but it's not believed he was inconvenienced by it despite wearing glasses to drive, an inquest heard.
He had been diagnosed with moderate to severe complex depressive illness and prescribed medication.
In a read statement, his partner Stephanie Hill said: “His depression escalated over the last two to three months before he died, things became more stressful and put a strain on us as a couple.
“Jonathan was a wonderful, intelligent and talented man. He was good at everything and would throw himself into everything he did.”
Senior coroner Kevin McLoughlin recorded a conclusion that Mr Ball died in a road traffic collision.
He said: “He was clearly a conscientious man who had been receiving active treatment.
“The fact he may have on previous occasions expressed suicidal indication does not provide me with any evidence whatever that at the time of this collision he did anything to deliberately collide with the rear of that stationary HGV.
“Dr Ball was pronounced dead by a paramedic on Saturday, November 24 at 7.18pm after the Skoda motor car he was driving collided with the rear of a DAF HGV vehicle which was stationary on the carriageway.
“Difficult though it is, we have to strive to learn lessons from tragedy. It is my intention to make a regulation 28 report, this is where I fear the same thing might happen in comparable circumstances.
“I would propose to write to the road haulage association to say that some form of warning equipment could be appropriate in HGVs if there is any possibility that an electronic fault might disable the vehicle.
“Secondary, it would be helpful if HGV drivers on a national basis were told that if they break it is certainly good practice to phone the police to pass on information that the situation has arisen.
“It does not alter the fact that this is an immense tragedy for the families involved and I offer you my heartfelt sympathy.”