Annie Hall inquest: Derbyshire woman accidentally drove into flood water before being swept away and drowning
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Chesterfield Coroner’s Court heard Annie Hall and her husband did not see any ‘road closed’ signs before she drove into deep water in Darley Dale following heavy rain in 2019.
The pair became stranded and decided to leave their vehicle – but Mrs Hall, 69, was swept away and tragically died.
The inquest heard Mrs Hall – who served as Derbyshire' s High Sheriff in 2017 – had driven her husband from their home in Buxton Road, Ashford-in-the-Water, to a social event in Derby on the evening of November 7, 2019. She collected her husband at 11pm.
Retired businesswoman Mrs Hall and her husband intended to travel back home on the A6 to Matlock and then take the B6012 across the Chatsworth estate.
Due to flooding, that route was closed, as was the A6 on to Bakewell, and they decided to take a route they knew across Darley Bridge, which crosses the River Derwent, to take them along higher ground to Winster and then home.
They took a right turn off the A6 at Church Road, Darley Dale, down towards Darley Bridge.
Concluding Mrs Hall’s four-day inquest on Thursday, coroner Peter Nieto said: “They did not see any ‘road closed’ signs on Church Road.
“As they neared the bottom of Church Road, their car went into surface water and Annie drove on into the water, increasing her speed in a state of some panic.
“The car then entered deeper water, eventually becoming stranded, and they decided to get out of the car and walk out of the flooded area.
“They did not use their mobile phones to call for assistance as they did not consider that they were in an emergency situation at that point, and although the water was at about knee-height, they considered they were able to walk through it.
“As they tried to progress, the conditions were deteriorating markedly with rising and faster flowing water.
“They were getting very cold and tired.
“There were car headlights in the distance but they themselves could not be seen.
“Annie fell a number of times and on the last fall was taken away under a fence by the flood water.”
Her body was sadly found by police helicopters at 7.09am on November 8, some 450 metres further down from the point she had been taken by the water.
Recording a narrative conclusion, Mr Nieto said: “Annie’s death resulted from becoming stranded and falling into flood water after having accidentally driven her car into the water.
“The situation caused her understandable panic and will have affected her decision-making.
“Her guard for encountering flood water was lowered as she had not seen any road closure sign on the road she drove down, and although she initially considered that she and her husband could walk through the flood water to safety, the situation rapidly deteriorated and she became very fatigued.
“The flooding occurred due to exceptional rainfall and the resulting river and surface flooding.”
Mr Nieto described her death as ‘tragic’ and offered his condolences to Mrs Hall’s loved ones.