Burger van man’s last selfless act saved Portsmouth city centre shoppers

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SELFLESS burger van driver William Davis avoided knocking down a family but injured himself so badly he later died.

When his foot got stuck between the pedals, his car careered towards the entrance of a Portsmouth department store and a woman and two children.

Mr Davis managed to steer the automatic Toyota Hilux away from them and the shop but ploughed into a tree pitching him against the steering wheel.

An inquest was told the 68-year-old, who was not wearing a seat belt, broke 10 ribs in the impact and died 14 days later in hospital from pneumonia.

The hearing was told that Mr Davis, a retired caterer, of Steerforth Close, Buckland, Portsmouth, had just unhitched his burger van in Commercial Road at the start of the day’s trading when the accident happened at 9.30am on December 22, 2010.

PC Steve Wootton, of the roads policing unit at Fratton, said CCTV footage showed that as Mr Davis moved the car away from the van close to the Jubilee Fountain, it ‘careered’ towards the main entrance of Debenhams.

‘He managed to avoid a woman and two children in the shop doorway and steered the vehicle into the tree. The vehicle then went into reverse and he hit the tree again.’

PC Wootton visited Mr Davis in Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, later that day and added: ‘He seemed to think his shoe may have got stuck between the pedals of the automatic car. It started to career off and he lost control.’

He said there were no marks on the seat belt to indicate it had been stressed during the crashes.

The inquest heard that Mr Davis had been in poor health for many years. He was a diabetic, had heart disease and found breathing difficult and had been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis since the mid-1990s.

Barbara Borek, a pathologist who carried out a post-mortem examination on Mr Davis, said he died from pneumonia on January 5, 2011 at QA, as a result of multiple rib fractures.

Karen Harrold, the assistant deputy coroner for Portsmouth, recorded a verdict of accidental death.