US retiree killed in freak accident after he flew to UK for sister-in-law’s funeral, court heard

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A retiree from the United States of America was run over  (PA Wire)
A retiree from the United States of America was run over (PA Wire)

A retiree from the United States of America was run over and crushed under a car in a freak accident as he flew into the UK to attend his sister-in-law’s funeral, a court heard.

Bill Barber was collecting a rental vehicle with his wife Linda Lane when he was struck by an out-of-control car, in the parking area of Enterprise rent-a-car near Heathrow airport.

Horrified bystanders tried desperately to lift the car off Mr Barber before paramedics made efforts to save him, but he died from his injuries in front of his heartbroken wife.

The driver of the other car, Jose Amaya-Romero, is now facing a possible prison sentence for causing the accident, by not putting on the handbrake when he parked.

Ms Lane told Westminster magistrates court how she has been left lonely and bereft by the death of her husband, at a time when they were looking forward to a long retirement together.

“People are shocked and disbelieving when I tell them the circumstances of my husband Bill’s death,” she said. “Sometimes I hardly believe it myself.

“Bill and I flew to the UK to attend my sister’s funeral. Bill was struck and killed by a car before we left the rental car parking lot.

“After three years, images of Bill’s death are still vivid. The other vehicle slammed into him, hitting him in the pelvic region, throwing him into the air, before he disappeared from my sight.

“Bill was lying underneath the other car which still had the engine running.”

Ms Lane – who at first feared her husband had fallen victim to a ‘lone wolf’ terror attack – told the court via videolink from her home in Virginia that he “didn’t deserve to die such a cruel and violent death”.

“Bill and I were supposed to live towards our retirement years together”, she said. “Now I spend virtually all of my time alone.”

The incident happened on Boxing Day 2018, when the couple were collecting their hired vehicle and Amaya-Romero was driving to return his rental car.

Mr Barber got out of the car and went around to the driver’s seat to help his wife, who was struggling to put on her seatbelt, the court heard.

As he was stood on the driver’s side, Amaya-Romero tried to park his car and got out of the vehicle, only to see it slowly start to roll forward.

He was seen desperately trying to jump back into the car to pull on the handbrake, but did not get there before the vehicle had struck Mr Barber and was resting on his chest.

The court heard Amaya-Romero, also from Virginia in the US, was questioned by police and then flew out of the UK.

“He took the first available flight out of the country”, said Ms Lane, fighting back tears. “I can never forgive him for that, and Bill would never have done.”

A warrant for Amaya-Romero’s arrest was issued by a London court, and he was eventually allowed to enter a guilty plea to the charge of causing death by careless driving by videolink.

On Friday last week, District Judge John Zani sent the case up to the Old Bailey for sentencing and insisted Amaya-Romero must fly to the UK for the hearing.

“Mr Amaya-Romero has to return to this country for the sentencing hearing,” he said, after the prosecutor said he did not know what would happen if a prison sentence was imposed.

Amaya-Romero agreed to fly to the UK for sentencing, on a date which has not yet been set.

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