Cadillac with ‘mind of its own’ killed doctor’s daughter in Oldham crash, inquest hears

A Tameside doctor lost his daughter and two other relatives in a road accident after his Cadillac people carrier crashed and overturned when it veered out of control ‘like a monster’, an inquest heard.

Dr Thaw Htin, 53, battled in vain to regain control of his specially adapted vehicle after a mechanical fault caused it to suddenly accelerate along a motorway in Chadderton.

He tried to pull off on a slip road but the vehicle ploughed into a roundabout and ended up on its roof.

The crash instantly killed Dr Hitin’s daughter Thiri, aged seven, her grandfather Than Tutt, 86, and 52-year-old aunt, Naw Naw Khin, 52, an accountant.

Dr Htin, his wife Khin, 54, also a doctor and his 76-year-old mother-in-law Ohn Myint survived the impact.

 An inquest heard in the moments before the accident, the SRX 3.6 car became ‘uncontrollable’ and appeared to ‘have its own mind’ and went faster when Dr Htin attempted to use the brakes.

Tests showed a fault on the vehicle had caused the car’s full throttle and brake mechanism to work against each other.

The tragedy occurred in August 2011 after Dr Htin, who suffers from polio, acquired the modified car which had been specially adapted to enable him to fully operate the car with his hands. 

He qualified for a driving licence in 1996 but he needs elbow crutches to help him walk due to weakness in his lower limbs – although he still retains sensation.

While driving he would keep his feet flat on the floor and use a hand control extension of the foot controls fitted to the steering wheel – pushing to brake and pulling to accelerate. 

The family who come from Burma but lived in Ashton-under-Lyne had gone to watch Thiri perform in a culture competition at the Meditation Centre in Salford.

They had been travelling along the M60 but after overtaking a car, Dr Htin claimed the Cadillac failed to slow after he applied the hand controlled brakes and he pulled onto the slip road at Junction 21 in Chadderton in a bid to regain control.

But the car travelled up the slip road at speed before driving across a roundabout island, which acted as a ramp sending the car into the air. The Cadillac crashed onto its nose before ending up on its roof outside Chadderton police station.

In a statement Dr Htin, who has been disabled by polio since the age of three and needs both a long leg and short leg brace said: “The car became uncontrollable. Even if I braked it was like it wanted to accelerate. It was like some sort of monster. It was like it had its own mind, a very strange thing.”

“We were on the motorway driving in the middle lane, I overtook a car, I don’t know why I couldn’t slow down. It wouldn’t slow down I didn’t know why it wouldn’t slow down. Usually I brake after  I overtake. After I overtook a car I couldn’t slow down. It had never happened before.

“All I wanted to do was exit from the motorway.”

The inquest heard that he took the sliproad and told the family that he couldn’t stop the car.  “I think until the end it was the same speed, it’s difficult to say.”

Dr Htin in his statement said that it had been “quite panicking” and that he had kept pressure on the brake all the way down the sliproad before driving across a roundabout. If I was to go straight around (the roundabout) the car would go over, if I was to go over the car might stop.

“I don’t know what went wrong. I wish I had known how to stop the car.”

Police were told that he had felt the car “shaking” which Dr Htin was able to feel through the seat.

He added that he did not remember seeing any illuminated lights on the dashboard and looked down to the footwell to make sure nothing was obstructing the pedals. He had also told police that his illness was not progressive and that he did not have spasms in his legs.

Dr Htin who also had an adapted BMW said the Cadillac before and that it had passed an MOT the previous November It had bought from a dealership in Birmingham and had been modified at Mobility Conversions in Salford and had never had any previous problems.

Both Dr Htin and his wife were able to use the vehicle and did not need to adjust the pedals because it had been pre-set. His crutches would be stored at the passenger side of the car.

Thiri was described as a ‘very artistic, intelligent and sociable young girl who excelled at school’. She was said to be “loved by anyone she met, had many friends in her school” and at the end of Year 1 had a reading age of a Year 4 child.

The statement from her mother went on to read: “She was not shy, she loved talking and was not afraid to stand up and address the school assembly . She liked to get involved in charity and community events. Thiri was a very religious person and proud to be a Buddhist and would meditate.

”For the last four years she had attended religious retreats at the Centre. We were all on our way home when this terrible tragedy occurred. She was proud of her Burmese culture and learnt to speak Burmese. Swimming was another love of Thiri’s and the piano.”

Recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner Simon Nelson said: ”I have no reason to doubt that those within the car were a close family unit each of them with the highest ideals.”

Story via Cavendish Press.

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