THE heartbroken family of a Grappenhall grandmother who died when her car accidently ploughed into the Manchester Ship Canal, praised two men who ‘risked their own lives trying to save hers’.

Warrington Coroners Court heard how Valerie Pritchard, of Sharon Park Close, Grappenhall, died after she mistakenly pressed the accelerator of her car.

It caused the vehicle to shoot forward into the canal near to the junction of Egerton Street and Ellesmere Road in Stockton Heath on March 12.

The court heard she had spoken to her daughter days before about changing her manual car for an automatic as pressing down on the pedal was causing her back pain.

Assistant coroner for Cheshire Alan Moore, who held the inquest yesterday, Wednesday, described the 72-year-old’s death as an ‘unfortunate and tragic accident’ after expert evidence revealed that the car she was driving was in a serviceable condition.

The court heard Valerie, who had been driving for around 30 years, was fit for her age and had no medical history of seizures, fits or cramps to her legs, which could have caused her to faint at the wheel.

A post-mortem examination also revealed that there was no indication that she had suffered from a sudden heart problem while she was driving.

In the hours leading up to the fatal accident, Valerie was described as being her ‘usual happy self’ and had bumped into a friend, Alison Addison at around 3.45pm, who recalled that the 72-year-old had made her laugh as she joked that she hoped her next physiotherapist would be a ‘hunky rugby player’.

But, around 15 minutes later, Valerie ‘lost control of her car’ while driving down Egerton Street and drove straight into the canal, where minutes later it was submerged under water.

Her body was later found trapped inside the car, which was lying on the canal bed around 30ft from the surface, by rescue teams at around 5.30pm.

Brave attempts were made moments after the crash, firstly by Antony Birchall and later by PC Simon Dadswell, who both waded into the freezing water to help Valerie.

Mr Moore said: “It has to be noted that out of this heartbreaking tragedy is story of great bravery by the two men who tried to save someone’s life.”

Following the inquest, her daughters, Tracey Barrowman and Nicky Griffiths, said they would like to thank both men, adding that it was clear they were ‘risking their own lives to save hers’.

The family also paid tribute to a much-loved woman, who will never be forgotten.

“She was always a happy person and she lived her life to the full and was always smiling. She had recently got engaged about 18 months ago and was making plans for the future.”