Heartbroken father speaks about Fenland Road Safety Campaign ahead of ministerial visit
LIFE stopped for Andy Walker the day his nine-year-old daughter, Charlotte, died in the icy waters of a Fenland drain.
It was three years ago that the car she was travelling in plunged into the Sixteen Foot near Bedlam Bridge, March. Her death sparked off a road safety campaign appropriately called Charlotte’s Way.
Today Mr Walker and campaign instigator Graham Chappell, are meeting Roads Minister Mike Penning and his team, MP Steve Barclay, and council officials to put forward the case for targeted safety barriers along riverside roads in the Fens.
Mr Walker of Christchurch, said: “This is not going to bring my daughter back and I have to live with that for the rest of my life.
“This is a good thing for Charlotte’s name to be associated with as she was such a caring little girl and it would have made her proud - but she would have rather have been here to live the rest of her life and to do the things she loved doing.
“I struggle every day just to exist, I have not worked for two and a half years. It has wrecked my life and it has all been caused by losing Charlotte. I would not wish this on my worst enemy, it is absolute hell.”
Charlotte touched the lives of many in her short life. Mr Walker said: “She was a very caring person who was known far and wide. She was a great ballet dancer, a great gymnast. She was in the Girl’s Brigade and she was loved by a lot of people.
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“I believe there are some points along these roads such as the Sixteen Foot and Forty Foot and on other such bends where these barriers could stop people going into the water and ending up dead or badly injured.”
After launching Charlotte’s Way, Mr Chappell, a close family friend of the Walkers, consistently challenged the view of Cambridgeshire County Council that installing barriers was not a feasible option. Council officers have since said that targeted barriers at specific points could help cut numbers of river immersion deaths.
His fundraising efforts and donations have amounted to �5000. Mr Chappell will offer a cheque to the council for that amount towards the cost of a barrier at Bedlam Bridge.
Mr Chappell said: “I am very keen to meet the Roads Minister. He has a background in fire fighting and understands all too well problems around rescue operations with river immersion accidents. He is very aware of the significance of the situation in the Fens.”
Cost of a barrier at Bedlam Bridge will be around �8,000. Mr Chappell said: “We are also coming together to celebrate the fact that we have been successful in raising this money and it will be interesting to see whether the responsible local authority will take up the challenge.”
Mr Chappell said Mr Walker had been a vital part of the success of his sponsored cycle ride to Lands End giving both moral and practical support.