I arrived bright and early with my suitcase in tow, ready to make a quick exit. My flight to Vancouver was leaving Heathrow shortly after 5pm and I was going to be making the two hour bus ride from Brighton. I watched Richard open the show, listened to Adam Greenfield melt people’s brains (in a good way), did a quick podcast recording for Boagworld, caught a bit of Mike and Ben’s talk and then I was out of there; dragging my suitcase over to the bus station to catch the 12:30 to Heathrow via Gatwick.
Melanie Wisden works in a Starbucks in Cardiff. But on Friday, September 4th, she took the day off work. She was driving her friend Samantha to Gatwick airport. Samantha was newly married—Melanie’s eleven year old daughter Mia was a bridesmaid at the wedding. Now Samantha was heading off on her honeymoon. Melanie dropped her off at Gatwick’s North terminal and then got back on the road at about 1:30pm.
The bus ride from Brighton to Heathrow takes about two hours. It would be shorter but there are a few stops along the way. Halfway through the journey, the bus pulls into Gatwick’s South terminal, lets passengers off, lets passengers on, and then moves on to Gatwick’s North terminal where it does the same thing. The bus is back on the road at 1:30pm.
I was sitting about halfway back in the bus, listening to a podcast on my iPod as we exited the North terminal roundabout. The bus juddered and smacked into a road sign—we had come off the road.
We’ve gone over the kerb! I thought. The bus came to a rest on the median. It was a bumpy ride there for a moment but everyone seemed to be okay. I heard the bus driver say something like
Where is she? or
Where’d she go? (I can’t quite recall his exact words) and I thought
Oh crap! Did we hit a pedestrian? I knew we hadn’t hit a car …I would have felt that, right?
The bus driver was shaken up but he clearly instructed us to get off the bus immediately. We started to file out. I couldn’t understand why we were taking so long. Then I got to the door and saw that there was quite a gap between the door and the ground. That’s when I knew we were on top of something. It wasn’t until we were off the bus and walking away that I saw what was underneath.
The emergency services—ambulances, fire engines, and a helicopter—were on the scene in moments but it was clear that whoever was in the car must have died instantly.
We were taken to a staff canteen at Gatwick airport where the police took our statements, National Express tried to sort out our luggage and British Airways organised alternative travel arrangements. I wasn’t going to make my flight; something that normally would have been very annoying but now seemed insignificantly trivial. A day later, I made it to Heathrow—in a taxi, courtesy of National Express—and, after a mercifully uneventful flight, I arrived in Vancouver. From there I travelled on to Whistler, arriving the day before Jessica’s brother’s wedding.
Jeb and Anne were married in a lovely, relaxed ceremony in Canada on Sunday, September 6th.
A memorial service will be held for Melanie Wisden on Friday, September 18th at the Ely Church Of The Resurrection in Cardiff at 1.15pm, followed by cremation at Thornhill Crematorium, Wenallt Chapel.