Beloved Sheffield mum, 29, and three children died in horror head-on crash with HGV

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An inquest has heard how a former Sheffield woman and three of her four children were killed when her car veered into the path of an oncoming lorry.

Zoe Powell, aged 29, and three of her children – Phoebe, eight, Simeon, six, and Amelia, four – died following the crash on the A40 near Oxford in October last year.

Her husband, Josh, and their youngest child, Penny, aged 18 months, survived the collision.

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Oxford Coroner’s Court heard how Zoe and Josh, who studied in Sheffield and used to attend Christ Church Central in the city centre, had collected their four children, who had been staying with grandparents in Worcestershire, and were returning to their home in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, when tragedy struck.

Zoe Powell with her husband, Josh, and three of their four children (Photo: Sarah Mak Photography)Zoe Powell with her husband, Josh, and three of their four children (Photo: Sarah Mak Photography)
Zoe Powell with her husband, Josh, and three of their four children (Photo: Sarah Mak Photography)

The inquest heard how the family’s Subaru swerved into the path of a lorry travelling in the opposite direction.

Senior coroner Darren Salter said there was ‘no evidence’ that Zoe had thoughts of harming herself or her children before the crash.

“It’s more likely to be due to fatigue or distraction, or a combination of the two, and that the steering input was driver error,” Mr Salter said.

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“The cruise control was engaged and at the last moment the accelerator was pressed instead of the brake, which is a phenomenon sometimes seen in these circumstances.”

Zoe, an artist and author, and daughter Phoebe were pronounced dead at the scene.

Son Simeon and daughter Amelia died in hospital.

In a statement read to the inquest, Josh, a railway engineer, said he had no memory of the crash and his last recollection was being at his parents’ home that evening.

Lorry driver Adao Patricio described seeing the Subaru approaching on the opposite side of the road before ‘suddenly’ changing direction and swerving into his lane.

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“I had nowhere to go. The car came across onto my side of the road very quickly – I don’t know how that could even happen,” Mr Patricio said.

The inquest heard youngest daughter Penny was thrown out of the car in the collision and was found crying on the ground by drivers who had stopped after the crash.

In a report, investigating officer PC Lyndsey Blackaby said Penny received first aid at the scene and was later discharged from hospital.

Josh was extracted from the wreckage of the Subaru and spent several months in hospital recovering from serious injuries.

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PC Blackaby said: “Zoe Powell was a much-loved, respected and active member of the community.

“She was clearly devoted to her four children, her marriage and her faith.”

An investigation did not find any issues with Mr Patricio’s driving before the collision and there was ‘no clear reason’ why the Subaru swerved into the path of his lorry, the inquest heard.

The coroner described the incident as ‘tragic’.

In a joint statement issued through Thames Valley Police, Zoe’s and Josh’s families said there was much they would ‘never fully understand about the crash’.

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“The possibility that such a small distraction may have caused such a horrific accident should act as a painful reminder for everyone that roads are dangerous places; the actions of a single moment have wrecked an entire family and had a lasting impact on everyone around them,” they said.