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Elderly couple killed on accident blackspot bend
THE tragic death of an elderly Appleby couple has prompted calls for a reduced speed limit at what locals claim is an accident ‘black spot’.
Alan Murray, 73 and his wife Barbara, 74, were approaching a curve in the B6260 at Hoff on Saturday afternoon when their car left the road and plunged upside-down into a beck.
Now the accident has renewed anger that the 40mph speed limit is too high for this stretch of road as it approaches a bridge over the Hoff Beck.
Daniel Graham, landlord of the nearby New Inn, described it as a ‘nasty’ bend.
Sandra Gillespie, who lives just yards from the scene of the tragedy with her husband Frank, said: “Cars have ended up going into the wall on the bridge and also in the surrounding fields.”
Police said there had been six other accidents, three resulting in slight injuries, at that spot in the past five years.
Mr Graham, who was first on the scene, was praised for his bold actions in an attempt to save the couple.
He said: “The pub is only 50 yards away so when I heard the skid I ran straight away and jumped in the river from the bridge.
“I couldn’t wedge the door of the car open but luckily Frank and Sandra were driving up the road and they both helped me in the water – I wouldn’t have been able to do much without them and the passersby who helped.”
Although in chest-deep water the 29-year-old said it was just natural to want to do what he could.
“The river was absolutely freezing cold and it started to rain as well, but I didn’t really have time to think.
“At one point I was in the back seats of the car under water, but it’s just something you have to do.
“It was very traumatic — I don’t cry but I was straight on the phone to my mother afterwards and I was in tears.”
Mrs Gillespie, a member of Kirkby Stephen Mountain Rescue, said: “Daniel was very courageous and for me it was also just a natural thing to want to help.”
Mrs Gillespie has previously called for a reduced speed limit, and has taken the issue to the parish council.
Councillor Jonathan Wignell said: “If you plotted all the incidents on a map there would be points scattered everywhere – in both directions.
“People generally take the corner faster than the road will allow, but the County Council say they cannot enforce a lower speed limit.
“People generally take the corner faster than the road will allow, but the county council say they can’t lower the speed limit.
“I would also like to see lines on the road, which I believe would make people slow down a bit as they tend to take the corner too wide.”
In response, a Cumbria County Council spokesperson said: “Over the last few years our highways team have introduced speed safety measures including chevrons, bend warning signs and a 40mph speed limit on the B6260 at Hoff. As the accident is part of an ongoing police investigation, and the cause has not yet been determined, we are unable to comment further.”
The couple’s eldest son Steve Murray, said: “We are all truly shocked and terribly upset by the tragic event on Saturday taking mum and dad away from us; as well as grandparents and great-grandparents from our children. It is hard to come to terms with something so shocking and painful.”
And tributes have poured in from the Appleby community. Neighbour Julia Wearmouth said she had nothing but kind words to say about them: “They were grand – always very interested in my children and those of my sister, who lived here before me.
“When I got out of hospital a few weeks ago after having my baby Mrs Murray came out and was asking what I had had – she was very generous.
“And Alan was a funny fella – he had a really dry sense of humour but we got on.”
For the last 17 years Mr Murray had worked as a full-time Stagecoach bus driver and had only retired from the post in May.
Deputy Mayor of the town Andy Connell frequently joined him on his Kirkby Stephen to Kendal route, and agreed that he enjoyed a laugh.
He said: “He had a sardonic wit and joked with people on the bus – he enjoyed the job.”
And a spokesperson for Stagecoach said: “He was a popular and well liked member of staff and we are deeply saddened to hear this tragic news. He will be greatly missed by colleagues and friends and our thoughts are with his family at this very sad time".