Mum feared for son's life in near-miss with van by Lymington Junior School
“I just thought my son is going to die.”
These are the words of a shocked mother after a speeding van shot through a school crossing, narrowly missing her young child.
The incident unfolded as Nicky Michelle and four-year-old Cohen were guided across Avenue Road towards Lymington Junior School by school crossing patrol officer Dave Robinson around 3.10pm on Thursday 24th January.
Miss Michelle had to pull her son out of danger when the van suddenly accelerated through the crossing at what she estimated was around 55mph. No one was hurt, and the van did not stop.
At the time the pair were on their way to collect Miss Michelle’s older daughter, Indy-Mae (8), from the school.
“It was dreadful,” she told the A&T. “I was going up to Dave, who’s the lollypop man, and he checked for cars then started to cross.
“Then all of a sudden, we heard this engine revving and saw the van, and you could tell the driver wasn’t going to slow down.
“I yelled at my son to stop and luckily he did. If he had been hit, there was no way he could have survived that. It was just heart-breaking to see. It was horrible.”
Neither she nor Mr Robinson were able to catch the vehicle’s registration due to the speed at which it went past.
“Cohen was very shaken and burst into tears,” she continued.
“I just thought my son is going to die – that was the only thing that went through my mind. Then the adrenaline goes through you.”
Believing it may have been a Ford Transit, Miss Michelle described the van as grey with black writing on a white shaded background.
As well as alerting the police, who have launched an investigation, she told New Forest District Council in the hope the van was captured on nearby CCTV.
She also criticised Hampshire County Council for not allowing school crossing patrol officers to have body-worn cameras, arguing footage caught on one could have helped catch the driver.
“If we could have got the registration on that camera we could have given it straight to the police on Thursday. That would have been a lot easier, instead of dragging our feet,” she said.
She added: “I just want the public’s help to get as much information as I can to ensure this driver is caught. My whole life could have been turned upside down that day and I don’t think that’s fair.”
Speaking to the A&T about the incident, Mr Robinson said this had been the closest near-miss he had witnessed in just over eight years as a crossing patrol officer for the junior and infant schools.
“I’ve had a few incidents where cars have gone through and people have said, ‘That was close’, but they’ve actually been miles away. Things can look closer from different angles,” he explained.
“But in this situation, it was very close and could have been a lot worse for the child.
“The van driver was deliberately trying to get through. I could hear it accelerating and changing gears and it went through at a hell of a rate.
“For the sake of a couple of seconds of his day, he wasn’t prepared to stop. It could have been a lot worse if the child was just a bit further into the road.”
Claiming the county council does not allow body-worn cameras for school crossing patrol officers, unlike some other authorities in the UK, Mr Robinson partly attributed this to concerns about capturing footage of children.
However, he maintained the technology could be as effective as dashcams in vehicles for proving evidence of any incidents or offending drivers.
The van’s driver’s behaviour was branded “reckless” by Lymington Junior School head teacher Dan Twyman who sought to assure parents and pupils that such incidents rarely happen near the crossing.
“Hopefully whoever it was will be found and held accountable for the choices they made,” he said.
“Obviously, I’m hugely pleased that on this occasion no one was injured. I’m also hugely grateful for the efforts of our crossing patrol man who comes out in rain, sleet or snow.
“This type of incident just goes to show how essential that role is and also how important it is that everyone takes all relevant precautions when crossing the roads.”
Responding to the concerns raised about body-worn cameras, HCC cabinet member for environment and transport Cllr Rob Humby said: “Where the use of body cameras is concerned, issues such as their effectiveness, purpose and data security of recording children all need to be taken into consideration.
“While we do not routinely issue body cameras or similar equipment to school crossing patrol officers, we continue to keep this under review and monitor improvements in technology.”
Cllr Humby added: “I was sorry to hear about this incident. While speeding is a matter for police enforcement, I would like to remind all drivers to take care on the roads and be mindful of all those who are using them, whether they are walking, cycling or driving.”
Police are urging potential witnesses to come forward to help identify the van driver who was described as a man in his 30s with dark hair.
Anyone with information should contact the roads policing officers at Hampshire on 101, quoting incident reference number 44190029071, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.