On the 29th of April 2009 I was sat in my room in house that I shared with friends that faced onto the London Road, Coventry (A4114). I was working late, probably on a website, when I heard an almighty smash followed by the screeching of a car braking. I initially assumed that two cars had collided as there is no central divide/barrier on this stretch of road. Then I heard the screams.
When I got up to the road level via some steps there were already other people on the scene, including a security guard who was giving CPR to a young man who was lying across the road and pavement’s kerb. It was obvious at first glance that his injuries were life-threatening.
There were other young people on the scene, and a particularly emotional young man who identified himself as the victim’s brother. He was very angry at the car that had stopped further down the road and I, along with another person on the scene, had to hold him back from going and doing something that would have compounded the situation.
I remember pleading to him to go and be with his brother, to hold his hand and comfort him. The scene was harrowing, and to this day remains a vivid memory.
As police and ambulances arrived, the scene was cordoned off and we were all sent back to our homes. I emerged after a while to see why the road was being lit up. An officer said he couldn’t go into details, but pointed out that they wouldn’t be setting up a forensics operation if the young man was alive and well.
I remember the sound of police cars speeding and braking over and over again – apparently a means of testing to ascertain the speed of the vehicle at the time of the impact.
The next day I wandered into the Holy Trinity Church in Coventry City Centre, feeling somewhat numb and still in a state of shock, because I just wanted to pray for some reason. I’m not overtly religious, but that day I just wanted to pray for the soul of the young man, his family and his friends.
I can’t quite remember how it happened, but two women came and talked to me. I told them what had happened the previous night and one of them revealed that the boy who had died was the son of a minister at another church and they had only just heard what had happened. We all prayed together.
I still think about that event sometimes to this day. The sound of the impact, the suddenness at which a young man’s life ended. The screams and the shouts. The horrific injuries.
The tragedy of the death of Daniel Patterson became much worse when it was revealed that the woman who killed him was driving illegally without a licence having never passed a UK driving test, and was fined £100 by magistrates for causing death by dangerous driving and received a 12 month ban.
“If she hadn’t been breaking the law by driving without a licence it wouldn’t have happened.”John Patterson, speaking in Sept 2009
This event was the second road traffic accident to leave an indelible mark on my life – the first happening before I was born when my paternal grandmother was killed by a drunk driver, leaving her young children to the care of their father who died only a short time later, they say from a broken heart.
The sentence given to the driver at the time was also ‘colossally lenient’, whilst the impact of her death, and the subsequent death of my grandfather, echoed through the generations.
These moments, these life-changing moments, happen so quickly – the blink of an eye. Yet they are utterly devastating and their effects resonate for years afterwards, and the so-called butterfly effect is also tremendous.
My life goes on, but I do sometimes think about Daniel’s parents, about his brother, his friends, and about the life he could (and should) have led but was taken from him. I think about the butterfly effect on their lives and I also still get angry when I think about the leniency of the sentence handed down.
I was merely a bystander that day. There were others such as the passing security guard who gave CPR who must be much more affected by the events of 29th April 2009 than me. All I can do now is what I did that next day: pray.