Published: 06:00, 18 October 2020
| Updated: 14:10, 20 October 2020
A young woman was killed when the car she was in crashed during a police pursuit, an inquest has heard.
Lisa Grange was a passenger in a Nissan Note that crashed on a roundabout in Folkestone while being chased by police officers in December 2018.
The incident was sparked by reports of a potential burglary at Waitrose in Prospect Road, Hythe, with two suspects – a man and a woman – seen getting into a silver car and leaving the scene.
The inquest at County Hall in Maidstone heard that two police officers attending the call spotted the Nissan driving past them and turned around to stop it and question the occupants.
The officers realised the vehicle was not stopping and started to pursue it. They were joined by a second marked police vehicle.
The short chase ended in tragedy at a roundabout at Sandgate Road and Castle Hill Avenue where the car collided with a large brick flower box and flipping over.
The inquest heard that Ms Grange, of no fixed address, was trapped underneath the car when it landed after it rolled.
During the crash the 34-year-old tragically sustained a “catastrophic” head injury that killed her instantly.
The two other occupants, who were in the front of the car, were also injured but survived. Their conditions were not discussed during the inquest.
Road Traffic Investigator PC Duncan Swallow said that speed was a major factor in the crash and that other potential issues including road quality, weather and vehicle safety could not have contributed.
PC Swallow also said that the evidence suggested that none of the three occupants of the car were wearing their seatbelts, as the two front belts were plugged in as if to prevent the vehicle safety warning going off while driving, and the rear belts bore no marks to suggest they had been in use when the car crashed.
Assistant coroner Sonia Hayes said: “It does seem that if Lisa were wearing her seatbelt, she would not have been thrown forward in the way that she was, and may have been kept in her seat instead of being propelled out of the window.
“We cannot say for sure, however, whether or not she would have sustained injuries, and whether or not those injuries would be life threatening.”
A compulsory investigation into the incident was launched by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC), which is standard procedure when an incident occurs during a pursuit.
CCTV along Sandgate Road showed that the first marked police car was travelling at a safe distance behind the Nissan, not getting within three seconds of the back of the car at any point, and being six seconds clear at the moment of impact.
An IOPC spokeswoman said: “Our investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Lisa Grange concluded in September 2019 when we shared the findings from our investigation with family members and a copy of the report was provided to Kent Police and HM Coroner.
“We began our investigation in December 2018 following a fatal road traffic collision in Castle Hill Avenue involving one vehicle.
"Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Ms Grange’s family"
“Kent Police made a mandatory referral to the IOPC as is standard in cases where a death has occurred following police contact.
“IOPC investigators attended police post incident procedure. We obtained and viewed body-worn video and CCTV of the incident, statements from the officers involved and others witnesses were also obtained.
“Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Ms Grange’s family, friends and all those involved in the incident.
“The IOPC investigation found there was no evidence the officer breached the standards of professional behaviour however the officer would benefit from being reminded of the force’s policies and procedures relating to vehicles that fail to stop. Our investigation also noted the very challenging scene the officer would have faced when providing first aid to the occupants of the Nissan following the collision.”
Ms Hayes said: "Given the evidence, I am satisfied that Lisa would have died instantly, and that no amount of medical help would have saved her.
"I would like to pass on my most sincere condolences to all of her family in this tragic time."