South East Wales

Russell Sherwood death: Firefighters left flooded road

Russell Sherwood
Image caption Russell Sherwood's car was swept into the river as he travelled to pick up his wife from work

A driver died after his car was swept from a flooded road into a river after firefighters left the scene, an inquest in Cardiff has ruled.

Russell Sherwood, 69 from Cilfrew, Neath, went missing during Storm Angus early on 20 November 2016.

Another driver had been saved from the same stretch of road one hour earlier.

Returning a narrative verdict, coroner Philip Spinney said it was "significant" no warning was in place.

He expressed concern that South Wales Fire and Rescue Service had not stayed at the scene of the rescue until the road was closed.

"In my view it is significant that the road was left without warning", he said, adding, "the flood continued to pose a danger to life".

Mr Spinney will write to South Wales Fire and Rescue Service asking them to review procedures after Mr Sherwood's death last year. They have 56 days to respond.

Mr Sherwood went missing while heading to Ewenny, Vale of Glamorgan, at about 07:00 to collect his wife, a cancer nurse, from her night shift.

Three days later his body was found in his submerged car in the River Ogmore.

Image caption Police found Mr Sherwood's body during river searches

The inquest heard how Mr Sherwood's car was swept into the river at an area known as Dipping Bridge on New Inn Road near Bridgend.

Another motorist, Stephen Evans, had been rescued by the fire service from the same spot about an hour earlier after water started coming in through his doors.

He told the inquest how he rang the police, who said they could not help him, before ringing the fire service - who arrived on the opposite side of the bridge.

Mr Evans described climbing out of his car through the passenger window and said that by around 06:00, when the fire service was on the scene, the water was going over the roof of the car.

He added: "I did ask them why the road wasn't closed. They said they had informed Highways."

Stephen Richards, from South Wales Fire and Rescue, told the inquest that when his colleagues arrived at the scene there was 10 inches of standing water.

They rescued Mr Evans and left after making two calls to the Highways Agency.

Mr Spinney asked why the fire service had not taken any steps to close the road.

Mr Richards said: "It is not fire service protocol to close the road."

'A kind-natured man'

Asked if the fire service should have waited until the Highways Agency arrived, Mr Richards said they needed to be available for other emergency calls.

Rafael Combarro, Bridgend superintendent for the Highways Agency, told the inquest they had to deal with other flooding incidents in nearby Pyle before they could close the New Inn Road, where Mr Evans' rescue had taken place.

He said he was able to close the bridge at around 07:00 and that he had dealt with the closure as quickly as he could "with the resources we had".

The inquest heard Mr Sherwood was last spotted on police cameras at 06.51.

In a statement read to the hearing, Mrs Sherwood said her husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 and went into remission after treatment.

"He retired that year and was at his happiest when he was with me or doing things with his family," she said, adding that he always picked her up and collected her from night shifts.

"Russ idolised me and displayed various acts of love and kindness on a daily basis," she said

"He was a kind-natured man to everyone he met. Russ was my world and I will never get over losing him."

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