Coroner calls for improvements to ‘lethal’ crossing in Chichester

A coroner has joined angry residents in demanding the Highways Agency take urgent action after a man died using a ‘lethal’ crossing point on the Chichester Bypass.

West Sussex coroner Penelope Schofield called for the agency to look into the possibility of constructing a once dreamt-of footbridge between the Whyke and Stockbridge roundabouts to improve road safety.

The coroner made the judgement after hearing about the death of Sigitas Juozapaitis, 54, who died at St Richard’s Hospital on December 2 last year after being hit by a van while crossing the busy road. Two other men died while trying to cross the A27 nearby, in December last year and January this year.

Mrs Schofield said: “We have heard the crossing being described as ‘lethal’ by one witness. Mr Carn of the Whyke Residents’ Association said it was an ‘accident waiting to happen’ and I think there is a real risk of future fatalities.

“The vulnerable are at risk, particularly those going to St Joseph’s night shelter, and also the children who go to schools in the area.

“Under Rule 43 of the Coroner’s Act, I wish to ask for signage on the westbound carriageway warning motorists of this crossing. I also ask the Highways Agency to look at the provision of a footbridge at this location. I do appreciate funding is an issue but it is clear there is a real risk for people using that crossing.”

Alan Carn of the Whyke Residents’ Association said: “There is no indication to drivers they might need to slow down for the crossing. This problem is exacerbated in the darkness.

“I would agree the crossing is lethal. We feel it is urgent to have a pedestrian bridge. There was a proposal several years ago but this had slipped away. We feel cheated by the Highways Agency. We could have prevented this from happening because it was only a matter of time.”

He also said the speed limit along the A27 should be reduced.

Peter Phillips from the Highways Agency said: “A footbridge at this location was previously proposed and one was due to be constructed in 2010/11. However for a number of reasons it was delayed and because of our funding arrangements we couldn’t carry that money over, so the scheme had to be cancelled.

“Unfortunately because of the demand, the pedestrian movements there do not score very highly in the current climate and do not represent value for the public purse.”

A post-mortem examination revealed Mr Juozapaitis was nearly three times over the drink-drive limit when he was hit after crossing the A27.

An inquest at Arundel Town Hall also heard of the deaths of two other men – Sigitas Jagminas, 61, and Kenneth Sherwood, 39, of Fernhurst on the A27, both by the Texaco garage near Chichester.

The coroner recorded accidental deaths for all three men.