07:26, January 18 312 0 theguardian.com

2019-01-18 07:26:05
Prince Philip car crash: Norfolk police to investigate

Norfolk police are to investigate the Duke of Edinburgh’s car accident, which left two people requiring hospital treatment, and said “appropriate action will be taken”.

Prince Philip, 97, was recovering at the Sandringham estate on Friday as further details emerged of the crash which left him “very shaken and shocked” , but otherwise uninjured, on Thursday.

A witness, Roy Warne, 75, who was driving home, has described seeing Philip’s Land Rover Freelander “tumbling” across the road after the collision as he pulled out of a driveway near the Queen’s Norfolk estate on to the A149.

The car flipped on its side after colliding with a Kia, containing two female passengers and a nine-month-old baby. The women both suffered minor injuries and required hospital treatment, but were later discharged, police said.

Both drivers were breath-tested and provided negative readings.

Norfolk police confirmed that the nine-month old baby boy in the Kia was uninjured.

A spokesman said: “The driver of the Kia, a 28-year-old woman, suffered cuts to her knee, while the passenger, a 45-year-old woman, sustained a broken wrist. Both casualties were treated at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in King’s Lynn and were discharged last night.

“As is standard procedure with injury collisions, the incident will be investigated and any appropriate action taken. We are aware of the public interest in this case, however, as with any other investigation, it would be inappropriate to speculate on the causes of the collision until an investigation is carried out.”

Warne told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he and another man helped free the baby from the first vehicle. Warne then helped get the duke out of his wrecked Land Rover, either through the sunroof or the smashed windscreen.

“I was driving home and I saw a car, a black Range Rover, come out from a side road and it rolled and ended up on the other side of the road and there was a huge collision with another car,” he said.

“I went to the other car. There was a baby in the back and, with another man, we got the baby out. Then I went to the black car to help and realised it was the Duke of Edinburgh.”

He said Philip was trapped with his legs in the well of the car. “I asked him to move his left leg and that freed his right leg and then I helped him get out.”

Warne said: “The roof was where the window should have been because it was on its side. I think I helped him out through either the sunroof or the front windscreen, but I’m a bit blurred about that.”

Asked what the duke had said during the rescue, Warne replied: “I can’t remember, but it was nothing rude. He was obviously shaken, and then he went and asked if everyone else was all right.”

The duke was able to stand and walk, but there was “a little blood” he said, suggesting Philip had been cut, possibly by broken glass. “There was a little bit of blood and one of the royal entourage gave me a wipe to wipe my hands,” he said.

Warne said of the crash: “I think there’s no doubt that it was hit [by the duke’s car] . That’s my recollection.”

Of the duke’s vehicle, he said: “I didn’t see it come from the side road. I saw it careering and tumbling across the road and ending up on the other side. It would take a massive force and it had rolled on the other side as well.”

Philip was taken to Sandringham where he was seen by a doctor as a “precautionary measure”, Buckingham Palace said on Thursday.

Concerns have previously been raised about road safety on the A149 near Sandringham. On Friday, Norfolk county council, which coincidentally had been scheduled to discuss safety measures on the A149 where the collision took place, approved plans for the speed limit to be lowered from 60mph to 50mph and to implement an average-speed monitoring system.

Elderly drivers must renew their driving licence every three years after they turn 70, but are not required to retake a driving test, and there are no laws on what age you must stop driving.

Buckingham Palace said: “The Duke of Edinburgh has a valid driving licence and completes all the usual DVLA processes.”

If Philip is thought to be liable, he could face prosecution for driving without due care and attention. Lawyer Nick Freeman, known as Mr Loophole, who has represented celebrities prosecuted over alleged traffic offences, said he believed Philip could have a good defence if he blamed being blinded by the sun, as one witness claimed. He could also avoid prosecution by surrendering his licence, Freeman told the Press Association.

“If the sun was so low and right in your eyes, sometimes it is impossible to see, and that may well have been the case and that would afford him a defence,” Freeman said.

The Crown Prosecution Service would consider if it was in the public interest to prosecute, if the royal was thought to be at fault. “In my view, even if he’s found to be at fault, I think anyone advising him would contact the CPS and say, look, he now accepts he shouldn’t be driving and he’s going to undertake to surrender his licence and not drive again,” Freeman said.

But the decision had to be balanced with the wishes of those in the other car, who both required hospital treatment, he added. “They may say, ‘We don’t care who he is.’ They might think at his age, at his position, he could afford a driver. He’s got all the facilities, he shouldn’t be risking the lives of others. They might push for a prosecution.”