A mum treasures the last time she kissed her 18-year-old son after he died on the day of his exam results.
Pauline Fielding, from Heswall, said her husband called as she finished work to say their son was being taken to Arrowe Park Hospital after a crash one day in June 1994. Her husband questioned whether he’d lost a leg, “but it was worse than that”.
The retired teacher, now 77, cried as she recalled the moment she heard the news in hospital. She told the ECHO: “A consultant came in and said, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve got something difficult to do now’, and I just said, ‘Is he dead?’. He just nodded his head.”
Andrew, her “kind, thoughtful” 18-year-old son, who loved fishing, “died instantly” in the crash. His Vauxhall Astra collided with an oncoming car after swerving to avoid the Volvo in front of it when it cut across his path at the junction of the A540 Chester High Road and Raby Park Road in Neston.
He was travelling to a football match with friends after receiving his exam results from Wirral Met College that morning. Pauline holds onto the thought that he at least got to know he’d secured a place at Salford University, and she’s “eternally thankful” for getting to “kiss and touch him” one last time in hospital, saying: “He was lying there, his face looked perfect, his hair was still immaculate. He just had a white sheet over him.”
More than 28 years after the crash in June 1994, Pauline still thinks about her eldest son every day. She told the ECHO: “When something like this happens to you, it changes your life forever. When Andrew died, it didn’t just change my life. My husband, my other children, Andrew’s friends, so many people’s lives were affected by it.”
She wonders how the driver, who was never caught, “sleeps at night knowing what they did”. Despite this, she wouldn’t have wanted the driver to go to jail had they come forward, apologised and had their licence taken away.
Instead Pauline turned her energy towards campaigning after reading about the same “dangerous junction”, which she’d always avoided, even before Andrew’s death. She set her sights on lobbying politicians to make it safer, telling herself: “As long as I live and I’m able, I’m going to carry on campaigning”
Pauline joined RoadPeace – a charity supporting people bereaved or injured in crashes – where she became a trustee and North West coordinator. The charity campaigns to reduce road dangers, and organises a football tournament, hosted by LFC Foundations in 2019, where young players are given road safety messages between matches.
The number of reported road fatalities has fallen since Andrew died, but still, an average of five people die each UK roads, with someone killed or seriously injured every 22 minutes, according to road safety charity Brake. Pauline said: “If one person dies or one person is seriously injured, that’s one person too many, and so it’s important that everybody plays their part, whether they’re politicians, campaigners, engineers, pedestrians, cyclists or motorists.”
Her campaigning led to an MBE, which was presented to her in January by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, whose mum Princess Diana died in a car crash in August 1997. Pauline said: “I had great empathy with him. We have things in common – neither of us has ever really got to the bottom of what happened when our loved ones were killed, so it was particularly poignant to receive it from him.”
Every August is Road Victim Month for RoadPeace, at the end of which is a remembrance service for road crash victims at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. It is always held on the date of Princess Diana’s death, the 25th anniversary of which is this year.
Pauline said: “We remember her and everybody who’s been killed on our roads. We want the remembrance to raise awareness to make people who use our roads realise the dangers that are out there. Our aim is to reach a time when there are no more preventable road deaths or injuries.”
Pauline has untreatable breast cancer, and some of her desired safety measures – including traffic lights – are yet to be implemented at the junction where her son, Andrew, died. She said: “I know I have limited time, and I’m desperate to see these lights in place.”
Updated on: 17 August 2022