Findings published following Christmas Day crash which killed a woman and a police officer in South Yorkshire
14 May 2019 01:53 PM
We have published our findings from an investigation following the deaths of a woman and a serving police officer in Sheffield on Christmas Day.
South Yorkshire Police (SYP) Constable (PC) David Fields was on duty, on 25 December 2017, driving a marked BMW 330d saloon in Sheffield. At 8.12pm he was stationary in his car when he was asked to respond, immediately, to a report of a large disturbance. Four minutes later he collided with a car travelling on the A57 in the opposite direction, being driven by Kevin Stephenson and carrying his wife, 61-year-old Lorraine Stephenson. Mrs Stephenson and 45-year-old PC Fields died as a result of their injuries. Mr Stephenson sustained serious injuries.
Following the conclusion of the inquests relating to their deaths, which recorded a narrative conclusion, we can now confirm the findings of our investigation. Using video footage from PC Fields’ car, documentation from SYP, witness evidence and three independent collision reports, we found:
Prior to the incident
- PC Fields was a trained, advanced, driver; entitled to use legal exemptions on the road when responding to incidents.
- PC Fields put on his lights and sirens, to respond to the reported incident, prior to the collision.
- It was dark and raining heavily at the time; video footage shows this, and a large amount of surface water on the road.
During the incident
- PC Fields was driving at high speeds throughout and temporarily lost control of his car on a roundabout shortly before the incident.
- He continued driving at speed, reaching 123mph at one point. PC Fields then lost control for a second time, at 103mph, and aquaplaned on surface water, spinning 140 degrees into the opposing lane.
- Mr Stephenson tried to steer out of the way, but was unable to, and the cars collided.
As part of our evidence-gathering, we looked at two reports by a Forensic Collision Investigator at West Yorkshire Police. These concluded that the speed PC Fields was driving, combined with the adverse weather conditions, caused the car’s tyres to lose traction. The result was the car aquaplaned to a degree that would have been impossible to control. We also looked at a third report, by a collision investigator at Humberside Police, which concluded that PC Fields was driving at an inappropriate speed for the weather conditions resulting in a loss of traction and the eventual collision.
During our investigation we became aware that less than a week before the collision some officers, including PC Fields, had raised concerns about a loss of traction by some vehicles (different models) during a recent pursuit in snow. We found that the force had received similar concerns from other officers. Since that time, SYP had taken steps to address this; making improvements to the vehicles, and putting in place safety measures, including warning drivers about excessive speed in adverse weather conditions. An inspection of the car PC Fields was driving that night found no mechanical faults that either caused or contributed to the collision.
We acknowledge that PC Fields is unable to account for his actions that evening, or the handling of the car. However, as far as the evidence indicates, we found that PC Fields did not appropriately adjust the manner of his driving or his speed to take into account the adverse weather conditions, which was not in line with his training or the local and national policies and procedures.
Given that PC Fields died following the incident, and was the only police officer involved, there are no further matters or potential proceedings for the IOPC to consider.
IOPC Regional Director Miranda Biddle:
“Our findings in this case are clear, dispassionate and objective, as they should be. But this does not mean we cannot be empathetic in understanding the tragic circumstances of this incident – not least because of when it happened – and the impact that this has had on all those affected.
“It is evident that PC Fields made a series of errors that evening; he did not adjust his driving for the poor weather conditions, continued driving at speed, and it ended in the loss of Mrs Stephenson’s life and his own.
“Whilst we can offer concise evidence, and transparency as to what happened that day, I recognise that our conclusions will do little to ease the suffering of both grieving families. Our thoughts and sympathies remain with them.”