School-crash driver had coughing fit, court told.
AMOTORIST blamed for knocking down schoolchildren and a lollipop lady had a severe coughing fit while behind the wheel, a doctor has told a court.
Robert William Bell is on trial at Cardiff Magistrates Court accused of driving without due care and attention.
The 62-year-old lost control of his Audi A4 outside Rhws Junior School in Rhoose, Vale of Glamorgan, last year.
Lollipop lady Karin Williams was seriously injured in the accident - alongside a number of schoolchildren, one of whom was placed on life support for three days.
Bell denies driving without due care and attention.
Previously, the court has heard that Mrs Williams saw the defendant with his eyes wide open and gripping the steering wheel tightly moments before the crash.
However, defence witness Professor Alyn Huw Morice said Bell was a classic case of a patient with cough syncope - which he said can cause people to blackout or have muscle spasms.
He said: "Twenty-five people a year are killed while driving with a cough syncope.
"All of the evidence I have heard is typical of a patient with cough syncope having a road traffic accident." Professor Morice told the court there were several indicators for the defendant having the condition.
"He is a portly gentleman, an exsmoker and was on the (blood pressure) drug ramipril. Around 15% of patients on ramipril develop a chronic cough," he added. Following the accident, Bell told officers he could not remember what had happened - and a passenger said he had been unresponsive to their shouts as the car veered across the road.
Professor Morice said: "Amnesia is typical in a patient who has cough syncope.
"A lot of patients can seldom remember what happened in the moments prior to them fainting."
The witness also demonstrated to the court of how a patient of the condition suffered severe muscle spams. And asked whether sufferers would have their eyes open or closed, he replied: "Either scenario is plausible."
During cross-examination, prosecutor Lisa Jones said the professor's conclusion of cough syncope being to blame for the crash was "inaccurate".
She said his report had not considered whether a head injury had caused him to forget key details of the accident. The court has previously heard of an incident in 1998 when Bell, of Rhoose, was treated in hospital with a severe chest infection. After he fainted while bedridden, cough syncope was written on his medical notes.
However, Miss Jones said the incident from 16 years ago was markedly different from the one in 2014 - as he "collapsed" in the former and "fitted" in the latter.
The trial continues.
The scene outside Rhws Primary School after Bell's car overturned
Robert Bell, 61