PINNED BENEATH A MOTOR-CAR
AND BURNT TO DEATH
INQUEST THIS AFTERNOON
Hungerford has had a week of shocks. The terrible thunderstorms which were experienced during the early part of the week,
involving considerable damage to property, and which were the most severe in the recollection of the oldest inhabitant, were incidents which, in themselves, caused much un easiness among
the local community, but the climax came on Thursday morning, when the tragic death of Mr. Frederick Roland Pratt, the landlord of the Bear Hotel, caused a painful sensation throughout
the entire neighbourhood. The circumstances attending Mr. Pratt's death are of the most painful character, and the sufferings of the unfortunate man must have been of an intense
The deceased, who was a Freemason and a Life Steward of that body, had gone up to London the previous day (Wednesday) to take
part in the 11th anniversary festival of the Royal Masonic Institute for Boys, held at the Imperial Hall, Japan-British Exhibition, proceeding as far as Reading n his own
motor car, which he has recently learnt to drive. He was accompanied by his brother-in law. On the return journey from Reading, everything appeared to have been all right, but when
between Newbury and Hungerford, near the Old Toll House, just after midnight, something occurred which caused the car to swerve, and, going up a high bank, some six feet in height, it
completely overturned. Mr. Pratt, who was driving, was pinned beneath the debris, but his brother-in-law was fortunately thrown clear of the ear. To add to the horror of the -situation,
the lamps of the car set fire to the petrol and the car at once became enveloped in flames.
The cries of the unfortunate gentleman and his companion soon attracted the attention of the occupants of the Old Toll House and
of the cottages near, and, with commendable promptitude, they attempted to extricate the deceased from his dangerous position. Owing to the flames, however, it was some time before they
could render assistance, but the men, women and even children of the cottagers put forth their most strenuous efforts to save the unfortunate man. Owing to his position, the car had to be
turned on its side to remove him, so completely was he pinned down. The would-be rescuers were at last able to accomplish this, but not before Mr. Pratt had sustained terrible burns, and
he had also received other injuries about the body, besides a terrible one on the head where he had come in contact with a telegraph post near by.
Dr. Hemsted was soon in attendance and rendered valuable aid, after which Mr. Pratt was removed to his home at Hungerford in a
cab. Here Dr. Blake James attended him, but no hope was given of his recovery, and, after lingering in great pain for several hours, he passed away about seven 'clock.
It has not been possible to arrive at an exact conclusion as to what caused the car to swerve, the deceased's brother-in-law
being completely prostrated from the shock, although he did not receive much personal injury. It has been suggested that flash of lightning either struck the car or blinded the driver,
but the most likely probability, and this is derived from certain utterances made by the deceased during times he regained consciousness, is a curious one. At the spot where the accident
happens stands the Old Toll House, commonly called the Round House from the way it is built, and at night time a curious phenomenon has-been noticed. Owing to the angles of the windows
through the house abutting on the road, when motorists with bright lights are proceeding towards Hungerford, the windows through a reflection , and to motorists not acquainted with this,
it appears that another motor is approaching. It is stated that the deceased imagined this and that he swerved in order to escape the imaginary object.
As stated before, the occurrence caused quite a painful sensation in the town, the deceased being well known throughout the
neighbourhood, and much sympathy is felt for his bereaved widow. The deceased has been in the town about a year and was a member of the Hungerford Fire Brigade, in which capacity he
attended in London, as a representative at the funeral of the late King.
The car was completely ruined by the accident and by the fire that followed.