Page last updated at 08:03 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 09:03 UK

Driver died sitting in car blaze

A driver burnt to death after refusing to leave her vehicle when it was set alight following a crash, an inquest was told.

Serena Sutton-Smith, 54, who suffered bipolar disorder, was said to have become enraged after crashing on the B4632 in the Cotswolds on 30 April.

Witnesses said she sat tight in her burning Vauxhall Nova, even though people were urging her to get out.

Gloucestershire Coroner Alan Crickmore recorded a verdict of accidental death.

The hearing was told that Ms Sutton-Smith had narrowly avoided hitting Paula Small's Fiat Punto on the road between Weston-sub-Edge and Mickleton before deciding to ram it.

She then put her foot on the accelerator and left it there, causing the tyres to disintegrate and sparks to fly into the brake fluid.

The former bar worker had come out of a side road without stopping, forcing Ms Small to swerve on to a grass verge, the inquest at Shire Hall, Gloucester, was told.

Enraged expression

Ms Small was stepping out when Ms Sutton-Smith's Nova piled into her without warning.

Residents who gathered at the scene said they saw Ms Sutton-Smith at the wheel with an enraged expression, revving her engine and spinning the wheels.

She was urged to get out of car before she was burnt alive, but the pleas were met with abusive language.

Gloucestershire Coroner Alan Crickmore, who recorded a verdict of accidental death, said the troubled woman had not grasped the life-threatening nature of the situation, due to her condition.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, causes dramatic mood swings.


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