Timber Panel 'Blew Like A Leaf' Before Killing Woman During Storm Doris In Wolverhampton
2 October 2017, 16:28
A wooden panel which struck and killed a pedestrian during a storm was blown around "like a piece of paper" for up for 20 seconds, an inquest has heard.
Jurors were told the section of a water tank cover - similar in size to a dining table - hit Tahnie Martin after falling from the roof of a six-storey building during Storm Doris last February.
Ms Martin, a 29-year-old university worker from Stafford, was pronounced dead near Wolverhampton's Mander Centre shopping centre after suffering head injuries.
Emma Whitting, assistant coroner for the Black Country, was told part of the cover, which appeared to a witness to be rotten, landed in Dudley Street, while a smaller section did not reach ground level.
A statement given to police by witness Rebecca Cresswell said the incident happened after several gusts of high wind and lots of rain.
In the statement, read to the jury by the coroner, Ms Cresswell said she stood on a chair in a cafe overlooking the street to track the progress of the flying debris.
The witness stated: "I looked out of the window and I saw a very large wooden rectangular panel - it was like the wind had picked it up like it was a piece of paper.
"I then saw it move quite rapidly. For a minute I thought it was aiming for me. I could see it had metal on it.
"The panel continued to moved downwards and it tipped forwards. I saw there were people on the street and the wood was aiming in their direction."
The inquest was told Ms Martin was walking with Wolverhampton University's head of marketing, Raman Sarpal, who was knocked to the ground and treated for a leg injury.
After seeing the panel strike the women, Ms Cresswell said she was in shock, believing someone had died.
"I had a clear view, watching it fall from the sky like a leaf," she said in her statement. "It took 10-20 seconds to get from top to bottom."
A statement read to the court on behalf of Ms Sarpal paid tribute to Ms Martin as a "fab girl" and a good colleague.
The inquest was told the pair were chatting about how windy it was when they were knocked to the ground.
In her statement, Ms Sarpal said: "I remember hearing the clatter of something on the floor. My legs were hurting and I was saying to Tahnie 'I think I can get up'."
Ms Sarpal then saw her friend being given CPR as she was tended to by retired doctor.
Another witness, Tiffany Whitehall, gave a statement to police describing how she watched the timber falling to the ground.
The 37-year-old, who had her hair tied up because of the high winds, said: "After the woman was hit, everyone started to try and help her. There were people crying and screaming, it was chaos.
"It (the timber) reminded me a square dining table. The wood looked rotten. It looked like old wood that had been out in the elements for a long time."
The inquest, being heard in Oldbury, is expected to last for up to five days.