Nicol, Hector

Nicol, Hector       1918 October 25th            Laverstock

Motor Car Overturns

Officer Killed at St Thomas’ Bridge

The story of an accident which occurred at St Thomas’ Bridge, and resulted in the death of an Army officer, was related to the Deputy Coroner for the city (Mr F H Trethowan) at the Infirmary on Friday. A motor car, which was carrying a party of officers, after descending the long hill on the London Road, struck a kerbstone at the end of the bridge, skidded and overturned. The unfortunate victim was Lieut Hector Nicol, of the Australian Flying Corps, who was 32 years of age.

Albert Thomas Brown, an Air Mechanic stationed at Salisbury, said that on Sunday, October 13th, he was walking towards the city with another air mechanic near St Thomas’ Bridge, at ten minutes to six in the evening, when he heard a noise as though something had been struck. He turned round and saw a car skidding across the road in the direction of Salisbury. He jumped out of the way on to the bank, and the car swerved and turned over on its right, throwing out the driver and three officers. Two of the officers were found to be seriously injured. Two other officers, who were in a lorry approaching the bridge, rendered assistance, and sent for an ambulance, and the injured officers were conveyed to the Infirmary.

Second-Lieut Whitney, one of the officers in the lorry, said that after passing under the railway bridge he saw the car with the officers approaching. He ordered the driver of the lorry to pull up, as the car was approaching at an excessive speed. He thought 18 to 20 miles an hour was the limit at which the bridge could be taken with safety, and the car was going faster than that. The back wheel of the car touched the cornerstone of the bridge, which threw the back part of the car into its near bank. This seemed to put the car out of control. Lieut Nicol, after the car capsized, was lying on his back, and was bleeding at the back of his head. Part of his body was under the car. Witness examined the car and found the brakes were all right. As far as he could tell all the occupants of the car were sober.

Lieut Norman Brown, who was accompanying the previous witness, said he was of opinion that it was impossible at the speed it was going for the car to cross the bridge in safety.

The Foreman (Mr F W Gullick) said he would like to know if there was any notice on the London side of the bridge saying it was a dangerous crossing.

PS Hunt said there was a notice warning motorists of a concealed turning, but there was no speed limit.

The Foreman thought the speed should be limited to ten miles an hour.

Lieut Whitney : Eight miles, or ten miles at the most.

The Foreman said this was not the first accident that had occurred at that spot.

The Coroner : The bridge had been knocked down once.

PS Hunt, on behalf of Supt Cowdrey, asked the officer what was the speed of the car.

Lieut Brown said that when he saw the car coming down the hill it was travelling at 40 miles an hour, but when it reached the bridge it was going 30 miles an hour.

Second-Lieut French, RAF, said he was riding in the car with Lieuts Nicol and Francis. The speed did not seem to be excessive. When passing the bridge the car skidded to the left and then hit something. It seemed to recover, then skidded to the right, turned over, and threw him into the road. The driver seemed to be driving fairly carefully during the journey. He had no complaint to make of the way in which the car was driven.

Archie Othmar Weeks, an acting sergeant in a USA Aero Squadron, who was the driver of the car, preferred to make a statement. He said that he shut off the engine at the top of the hill. When he reached the bridge he noticed the lorry and he drew in as far as possible to the near side, as the road was narrow and the lorry large. He got over the bridge all right and then the car struck something on the side of the bridge, which threw the car towards the embankment. He tried to right the car when he heard something snap, and the car swerved to the right and toppled over.

Replying to the Foreman, the driver said he had never been along the road in that direction before.

The House Surgeon at the Infirmary said Lieut Nicol was suffering from abrasions and bruises at the back of the head. He died on Tuesday, October 15th, from fracture of the base of the skull. He did not recover consciousness.

After the Coroner had addressed the jury, the Foreman said they quite agreed that the cause of death was accidental, and that contributory to the cause of the accident was the fact that the man was practically ignorant of the contour of the road, and the curiosities of the road, because there was a curious bottom to the hill. The jury suggested that the bridge should be immediately altered to meet the conditions of the day, and that a notice should be erected reducing the speed to eight miles an hour.

The Coroner said he was quite in agreement with the verdict, and that he would bring the suggestions to the proper authorities.

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