Cambridge University rower died after broken down car on M40 was hit

Rebecca Chamberlin

Rebecca Chamberlin

First published in News Bucks Free Press: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A PROMISING rower died after the car she was travelling in broke down on the M40 and was hit by another vehicle, an inquest heard.

Cambridge University student Rebecca Chamberlin, 21, was on her way to a training camp at Longridge activity centre near Marlow with three friends when the accident happened.

The yellow Ford Ka she was a rear seat passenger in broke down in lane two of the motorway on the northbound stretch between junctions 1a and 2, Beaconsfield. Moments later the car was hit by a grey Honda Accord being driven by Ian Treaseden.

Miss Chamberlin, who was part of Cambridge University’s Clare College Boat Club and had coxed for the senior men’s crew, died in hospital from multiple injuries the following day.

The collision happened shortly before midday on Thursday April 19, after the Ka had come to an unexpected halt. Fellow passenger Esther Momcilovic told the inquest, at Beaconsfield Coroner’s Court, three other vehicles avoided hitting the Ka but she said: “The longer I sat there, the more I realised it wasn’t whether we were going to be hit, it was when.”

Dr Treaseden, who was travelling from Ickenham, was overtaking two HGVs when he saw the Ford Ka in front of him, but he was unable to react quickly enough to avoid hitting the rear offside despite attempting an emergency stop.

The inquest heard the collision occurred on a stretch of the motorway that curves away to the left, and this combined with the two lorries is believed to have obstructed Dr Treaseden’s view. Collision investigator PC James Henderson said Dr Treaseden would only have had one-and-a-half seconds to react.

He told the inquest Dr Treaseden was travelling at around 53-56mph 500 metres prior to the collision.

Dr Treaseden told the coroner: “I thought the best strategy was to put an emergency brake on. Unfortunately, I hit the back of the car.”

Dr Treaseden and the two lorry drivers he passed were unable to agree if the Ka had its hazard warning lights switched on, but PC Henderson said the evidence suggested they were. He added it could not be ascertained what caused the car to break down.

Coroner Richard Hulett recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Speaking after the inquest, Rebecca’s father David, from Stockport, described her as a ‘modest, compassionate, fun-loving and popular girl’.

He said: “Fiona [Rebecca’s mother] and I will miss Rebecca terribly, as will her two brothers, and we will never forget her or how proud we are of her. She gave us many reasons for pride. Rebecca was thoughtful, musical and artistic, serious and hard-working. She was on the verge of achieving a good degree at a historic Cambridge college which had accepted her on merit from her state school background and she made the most of the rich opportunities that Cambridge offers.

"Rebecca was a modest, compassionate, fun loving and popular girl. She had completed two charity fundraising hitch-hikes, sang with musician friends, coxed her college rowing club's first boat and trialled for the Boat Race crew. Staff and student colleagues remarked on Rebecca's ability to be so committed to university life and friends without compromising her academic work."

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