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Inquest concludes into death of Kathryn Knight, from East Sussex, who died on the A21

The only witness to a crash on the A21 which left a woman dead described how the mini-cooper "literally flew across" the road and then into a fence, with debris hitting her own vehicle.

Kathryn Knight, 40, died from a head injury after her mini cooper crashed into a fence on the dual carriageway in Tunbridge Wells, while heading to London on a November evening. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Kathryn Knight with her older brother Paul Knight. Kathryn died in November 2020
Kathryn Knight with her older brother Paul Knight. Kathryn died in November 2020

A full inquest into the death of Ms Knight, a cleaner and personal trainer from Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, was held yesterday, where the witness account was given.

Ahead of the hearing, Ms Knight's family called for a safety inspection into the fence which she crashed into, before it was reinstalled by Highways England.

The family expressed anger that the barriers didn't stop her rolling down the hill.

In 2019, further down the A21, dentist Subhash Pai, died after his car aquaplaned on a wet carriageway and crashed into a fence.

That year MPs including Greg Clark, for Tunbridge Wells, and Tom Tugendhat, for Tonbridge and Malling, called for action.

Kathryn Knight died on an evening in November 2020
Kathryn Knight died on an evening in November 2020

Following Ms Knight's death and her family's concerns, Mr Tugendhat said he shared the family's worries, adding "there are clearly issues that need to be looked at" and he was pressing Highways England.

However, during the inquest, the officer investigating the November collision confirmed there were no road defects found that contributed to Ms Knight's death and no faults with the fence were raised.

The newly dualled section of the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury was opened in September 2017.

Work took three years and cost £70 million.

Coroner Alan Blunsdon ruled that Ms Knight lost control of her vehicle before "leaving" the road, possibly caused by an "overreaction" from the 40-year-old, when trying to manoeuvre past the car in front.

The inquest heard that Ms Knight had sent three voice messages over Whatsapp to the friend she was driving to see at 6.39pm, 6.40pm and 6.41pm.

The crash was reported to the police at 6.55pm by the only eye-witness, meaning it happened between two and four minutes before that, said PC Christopher Jones, investigating officer. There was no CCTV or dash cam footage of the crash.

The phone was found on Ms Knight's lap at the scene. PC Jones said could not say whether Ms Knight was sending messages at the time of the crash, but "she may well have been distracted" by her phone.

Relatives of Ms Knight asked whether it was possible that she could have sent the messages from a shop she regularly stopped at on that route- But PC Jones said he couldn't confirm this.

Sister Charlotte Collins said Ms Knight would put her phone, acting as a satnav, between her legs to listen to, but would never look at it.

Toxicology reports found that Ms Knight was five and a half times over the legal limit for THC.

THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.

Mr Blunsdon said he couldn't say for certain whether the cannabis would have effected her driving and whether she was using her phone at the time. He said that Ms Knight had "not necessarily" been beyond the 70 mph speed limit when she approached the car in front.

PC David Bailey, the forensic collision offer, said "it is more likely than not that the reason Ms Knight left the road was a momentary lack of concentration or distraction."

That distraction, he said, could be over taking the vehicle, or it could be she hadn't appreciated the difference in speed of the vehicle in front and had to take action to avoid hitting the vehicle, causing her to crash into the fence, which overlooks a wooded area.

Speaking to Kent Online in February, Paul Knight, Ms Knight's brother said he heard from the police that she had hit the middle barrier of the dual carriageway, bounced off and went through the fence.

However, PC Bailey said there was no evidence Ms Knight had hit the central reservation.

Despite no defects being found on the road to contribute to the crash, PC Long said there had been "a couple of collisions at least in that general area", and that local residents have raised concerns about that particular road since it was built.

During the inquest at County Hall in Maidstone, Mr Blunsdon ruled death by road traffic collision, describing the circumstances as "tragic and unexpected".

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