A CYCLIST was killed when a dustcart driver lost sight of her in a blindspot after failing to stop his vehicle “in the right place” at a junction, an inquest has heard.
Argentinian-born student Maria Fernandez, 24, was knocked off her bike in Charterhouse Street, Clerkenwell, in June last year – a tragedy that could have been prevented if the driver had not encroached into a “bike box”, an inquest into her death has heard.
The driver, Joseph Grant, was questioned by police but was released without charge following the accident during the evening rush-hour on June 12.
Mr Grant told the inquest he had no idea he had hit Ms Fernandez, trapping her under his vehicle’s front wheels, until he was alerted by drivers more than 100 metres from the scene of the accident.
Ms Fernandez, a PR student at London College of Communications in Elephant and Castle, died almost instantly from head injuries.
Mr Grant was familiar with the roundabout, using Charterhouse Street “two or three times a week” since beginning work as a dustcart driver in June 2008, the St Pancras inquest heard.
The dustcart was indicating left, but crucially had stopped into the five-metre “bike box” at the lights, the inquest was told. The driver’s view of Ms Fernandez was obscured as she waited alongside the vehicle.
Deputy coroner Gail Elliman recorded a verdict of “accidental death” after hearing evidence from Mr Grant, who has been driving heavy goods vehicles for more than 30 years, and from traffic investigation police.
She said: “The lorry was level with the advance stop line. It wasn’t stopped in the right place. If Miss Fernandez was five metres ahead in the cycling box Mr Grant would have seen her.
“But I do believe the indicator could have been seen by Miss Fernandez. Further caution might have been exercised if she believed the vehicle was going to turn left.”
Speaking after the inquest, Ms Fernandez’s boyfriend Riccardo Rispoli, who was cycling with her at the time of the accident, said he did not blame the driver, but added: “I think the law needs to get tougher so this doesn’t happen again.
“Maria’s death could have been prevented. The driver was in the cycle box so we couldn’t get in front of it. With better mirrors and if lorries were not so loud, these kinds of cyclist deaths could be stopped.”
Ms Fernandez, who lived in Hackney, was described as a “competent” cyclist who had been cycling in London for more than a year.