From the Yorkshire Evening Post
A five-year-old girl died on a Traveller site when she ran into the path of a van while playing with friends, an inquest heard.
Savannah Keenan was playing chase beside the access path at Heath Common caravan park on Doncaster Road, Wakefield, when she was involved in the accident last August.
A Leeds inquest yesterday heard that the driver of the van, Gerald Johnston, who also lived on the site, had not realised he had hit someone and drove off.
Leeds Coroner’s Court was told Mr Johnston, 22, had thought the “small, hard knock” noise he had heard was that of children throwing things at the van, which they often did.
He had not seen Savannah at all because of her small height, and the level of the van.
It was only when his wife phoned him that he realised what had happened. He returned, and identified himself to police officers attending the accident. Mr Johnston was arrested but no charges were brought.
PC Philip Eastwood, from West Yorkshire Police’s major collision inquiry team, told the court there was “every likelihood” that Savannah “would not have been in the vision of the driver for more than a second”.
Even if she had, it was unlikely a collision could have been avoided, he said.
CCTV showed Savannah running in front of the van, but not the accident, the court heard.
Other residents had rushed to the scene and Savannah was taken to Pinderfields Hospital but she died of head injuries.
Traffic investigations revealed Mr Johnston was driving at an average speed of 12.45 miles per hour on the path which has several speed humps.
Coroner David Hinchliff said children could often emerge from in front of or behind stationary vehicles, and that “because of their height, they are not visible until they are on the road”. Recording a verdict of accidental death, he said the tragedy was “the dread of every parent – and every driver”.
In a statement read in court, Savannah’s mother Dawn Keenan said her daughter was “simply a wonderful little girl” with “a big heart and a big personality”.