Father of William Avery-Wright slams school as coroner records accidental death verdict at inquest (From The Argus)
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Father of William Avery-Wright slams school as coroner records accidental death verdict at inquest
The father of a tragic public schoolboy has criticised his Sussex school for announcing his death to other parents before he had been told.
William Avery-Wright, 13, died after being knocked down by a 4x4 outside his school as he crossed a road to play in a rugby match.
His father, Christopher Avery-Wright, said Worth School, near Turners Hill, Crawley, sent out an email to parents after William had been struck saying he had been injured.
Then around half an hour later another email without his knowledge was sent to parents announcing William's death - while Mr Avery-Wright was still unaware on a train from London, he said.
As he was on the train, Mr Avery-Wright said he started receiving messages of condolence via text from people who had received the school's email.
William's mother, Lisa Avery-Wright, had already arrived at the hospital but she was advised not to break the news of her death to her husband until he was there too.
Following an inquest into his death, Mr Avery-Wright condemned the school, saying it had acted "appallingly" and that its actions had caused "incredible pain".
They are suing the school, where William excelled at cricket, rugby and football, after claiming he should have been supervised by an adult across the road.
The Roman Catholic school, which also posted a statement on its website about William's death, has previously said it published the information in "good faith" but its initial belief that both his parents had been told about the tragedy turned out to be "incorrect".
On Tuesday, following the two-day inquest at Crawley Town Hall, West Sussex assistant deputy coroner Bridget Dolan recorded a verdict of accidental death.
No mention was made by her in her closing remarks about the way in which the school disclosed William's death before his father had been told.
Ms Dolan had said the inquest's focus was on three matters - the events of the day of the crash, the school's road crossing policy and what changes have been made since William's death.
The coroner ruled out submissions by the family's solicitor that William died as a result of neglect but she did say school rules had not been "adhered to".
Outside the hearing, Mr Avery-Wright, from Crowborough, said: "I think the school behaved inappropriately. They decided to announce to the school parents by email that William had died.
"It caused incredible pain. I think if a child dies in the school's custody there should be reconciliation and we feel the school behaved appallingly to Lisa and me in that reconciliation."
He added: "When I was collected by the police at 4.30pm, I was getting text messages to say that William had died and clearly I had no knowledge of whether this was true or incorrect.
"It was only at 5.30pm when I got to the hospital to be met by my wife that my worst fears were confirmed."
The inquest heard that William was crossing a road with a friend as they headed to play in a school rugby match when he was hit by a Land Rover Defender.
The driver of the 4x4, Graham Voller, said he was travelling at around 40mph in a 60mph zone with his granddaughter at the time of the incident.
Mr Voller told the inquest: "I got to a short distance of the crossing and through the side window I just saw someone on the side of the road. I only saw one (person).
"And then the young lad just arrived in front of the Land Rover. Just as the boy hit the Land Rover I did an emergency stop. I had little time to react. When I stopped, I got out of the Land Rover and looked to see the boy, and got straight on to the mobile phone."
Mr Voller will not face criminal charges over the crash, which happened on a road he said he travelled on up to 15 times a day, the inquest heard.
William, a sporty teenager who played golf at county level, was pronounced dead from multiple injuries at East Surrey Hospital in Redhill, Surrey, on November 30, 2011.
The boy who was with William when he was struck described in a statement to police how he "froze" and how the crash had left him in "disbelief".
Moments before the crash, he explained how he mentioned to William that his sock was down. He told police: "I was looking at my shoe and then after two seconds, I looked up at Will. He was on the pavement.
"I saw him running and stop, and (Will) said, 'Oh my God', and then the whole thing happened." He added: "I didn't see the car before it all happened."
The boy later added that he thought William was "in the middle" of running and walking at the time. The boy said he had crossed the road before without adult supervision and that he had not been made to wait for a teacher to help him across.
Alan Mitchell, a teacher at Worth School who had overall responsibility for the games department, faced questions about the school's policy on safe road crossing for pupils.
Under the school's rules, he said students in years seven and eight had to have adult supervision when crossing the road. William was in Year 8.
Questioned by the Avery-Wrights' solicitor, Mr Mitchell said the policies did not state what should happen if a student is late. He added: "I would've expected (pupils) to go to games staff or a member of the house."
Mr Mitchell said the policy was communicated to pupils via the bursar who would give them a health and safety talk at the start of the year. He added that staff would be expected to read policies.
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