Two young sisters killed when their mother’s car lost control on a Creswell road might have lived if they had been strapped in properly, an inquest heard.
Chantelle Grace Keywood, five and her sister Yleina Skye Keywood, aged 21 months, died from injuries sustained in a crash on 24th September 2012 on the B6042 Crags Road.
The inquest at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court on Wednesday heard how the girls had been back seat passengers in a blue Peugeot 106 driven by their mother, Amy Keywood.
She and her older daughter, who was front seat passenger, survived the crash.
The family lived in Canterbury Walk, Carlton, at the time.
Witnesses driving on the opposite side of the road, towards Creswell, at around 4.45pm, saw the family’s car lose control and cross the carriageway.
It hit a silver Citroën C2 shunting it sideways, then spun off into a hedge.
Police crash scene investigators said reconstructions suggested Mrs Keywood was driving too fast for the wet conditions, although not necessarily over the 60mph speed limit.
They also said the children were not strapped in properly.
Mrs Keywood said: “Yleina had a five point car seat harness but no matter how tight I fastened it she would strain and wriggle her arms out of it so that only her waist was strapped in.”
She said she was worried it would hurt Yleina’s stomach if she braked sharply, and thought a three point steatbelt would protect her better than just a strap.
She also admitted not knowing Chantelle was too young to be on a booster cushion. The court heard she should have had a car seat.
“I thought from the age of four you could carry a child in a car with a booster seat. I didn’t know it needed a back,” said the girls’ mother.
“I didn’t just put them in incorrect car seats willy nilly.”
Crash investigator PC Bernie Glynn said: “Inexperience and a lack of understanding appear to be a factor in the tragic sequence of events that led to these children’s deaths. They were not afforded a chance.”
“When she restrained Yleina that day Mrs Keywood probably thought she was doing the right thing by her daughter. But it is when things like this happen that you realise how tragic the consequences can be.”
He added that the case should serve as a warning to parents to always use appropriate car seats and restraints for their children, even if a child objects.
He said: “Think about the incomprehensible loss Mrs Keywood and her family have suffered.”
Mrs Keywood said the family had been visiting relatives in Creswell before the crash and were on their way shopping.
“I hadn’t driven that road many times before. I wasn’t used to it,” she said. The court also heard she was a relatively inexperienced driver, having only held a licence for 13 months.
“The car wasn’t going where I steered it so I steered the other way because I thought that’s what you did. But we carried on going in the same direction and I saw the other car,” said Mrs Keywood.
“The road was greasy and it was raining. I do concede I might have been going too fast for the road conditions.”
Assistant Coroner for Derby and Derbyshire area Paul McCandless recorded a narrative verdict, saying the girls died from their injuries as a result of the car crash.
He said: “Neither child had been appropriately restrained at the time and it is the opinion of the pathologist that life threatening injuries were sustained .”
“It is more likely than not that if they had been properly restrained, both Chantelle and Yleina could have lived. Their deaths could have been avoided.”
“Mrs Keywood will live forever and a day with the fact those reasons had a role to play in her children’s deaths.”
“Inquests are not about blaming people. It is not a criminal court, nor a civil court. And no-one could help but feel a considerable degree of sympathy for Mrs Keywood and her partner’s loss.”
The inquest was told that a full criminal investigation had been carried out by the police. But the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that prosecuting Mrs Keywood would not be in the public interest.