A POLICEMAN who was driving to an emergency has described the harrowing moment he tried to avoid hitting an elderly pedestrian, who died following the collision.
PC Richard Harris was travelling west along Edward Street from Eastern Road in Brighton on August 25, 2017 in a marked police car with blue lights on when he hit 79-year-old David Ormesher beyond the junction with Upper Rock Gardens, shortly before 1am.
Mr Ormesher, from near Poole in Dorset, suffered injuries to the left side of his body and a serious head injury, as well as a cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency services at 1.44am.
At the inquest into his death, which began on Monday at the Jury’s Inn Hotel in Stroudley Road, Brighton, PC Harris told the court he had diverted into the left lane to avoid hitting Mr Ormesher when he saw a movement from the central reservation.
He said: “From what I remember he came off the central reservation at quite a pace. He was not running but not slow either. He walked out into the right lane.
“As soon as I saw movement I began to brake. I took up the left lane to avoid hitting him. In my mind he sort of just held for a second… it’s hard to describe.
“Then in the corner of my eye he was coming closer and I heard a bang on my side of the car.
“He was in the road and I was shouting ‘Sir’ but he was not responding.”
PC Harris, who had been travelling with his colleague PC Samantha Cooper in the passenger seat, rushed to give Mr Ormesher CPR.
PC Cooper had pressed the panic button on police radio and raised the alarm that a pedestrian had been hit, the court heard.
PC Harris said: “When you hit that red button on your radio it’s the worst thing in the world as a police officer, as you know that somewhere, someone is going through hell.
“The next thing I remember is being in an inspector’s office at John Street for breath and drug tests. It happened in seconds.”
The court heard PC Harris and PC Cooper had been on their way to a “grade one” incident, the highest level or emergency, involving a woman who had tried to kill herself by going into the sea near the Palace Pier.
PC Cooper, who was in communication with other police over the radio, said two other officers had arrived at the scene and found the woman unresponsive, having pulled her from the water.
But another urgent call said the woman had managed to return to the sea and the officers had followed her in.
PC Harris said he feared he could have “three casualties instead of one” as he drove at high speed, estimated to be approximately 60mph, according to ambulance records given at the inquest.
He said: “When responding to a grade one incident there are exemptions, and one is exceeding the speed limit.
“You have to think about proportionality. It’s a continuous risk assessment.”
On Monday the court heard from forensic collision investigator Stephen Cash, who was asked to investigate the crash by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
Mr Cash had estimated where Mr Ormesher might have been standing as he crossed the road, and reconstructed the route taken by police.
He told the court: “From my assessment you could see him standing on the central reservation from about 80 metres away.”
However, PC Harris said “it was hard to judge” how far away he had been from Mr Ormesher when he first saw him, but said he had passed the junction with Upper Rock Gardens.
PC Stephen Ashby of the forensic collision investigation unit at Sussex Police attended the scene at 2am and recorded evidence in the aftermath of the crash.
He calculated the speed of the police vehicle at the moment of impact was 57mph, and Mr Ormesher had been hit near the southern side of the road, about 5.5 metres across the 7.5 metre wide westbound carriageway.
He said: “We simply don’t know where Mr Ormesher stepped off the central reservation.
“The point of impact was approximately 40 metres from the western most point of the junction.
“Hazard reaction time is something we do on a continuous basis. It’s feasible PC Harris has first thought he can continue around Mr Ormesher, but when he started walking again PC Harris has to think and react again.
“The natural reaction for anyone is to steer away from the danger.”
Senior coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley said: “Two experts are coming up with different assessments. It is the best we can do.”
The hearing continues.