Woman dead, sister hurt after hit by own car

Nancy Langworthy, right, was injured in the accident that resulted in the death of her sister at Cessnock District Tennis Club, left, yesterday.THEY were sisters who shared a love of tennis, but for Nancy Langworthy and Leila Billett a morning get-together at the courts dedicated to their late mother became the site of a freakish tragedy that has left one sister dead and the other in hospital.

The Aberdare and Cessnock communities are mourning the death of Mrs Billett, 79, a well-known former nurse and tennis player, who died yesterday when her own car ran over her.

Her younger sister, Mrs Langworthy, 74, of Aberdare, suffered a concussion and a few minor cuts and bruises in the incident and was taken to hospital suffering from shock.

Police believe Mrs Billett, of Cessnock, was performing a reverse U-turn in the driveway of the Cessnock District Tennis Club on Aberdare Road at Aberdare about 10.15am when her wheels rolled on to a neighbouring disused bowling green.

Central Hunter police believe the woman opened the door to get out of the car but when attempting to hit the brake, she pressed the accelerator instead.

‘‘The woman was thrown from the car as the vehicle continued in a clockwise reverse direction, accelerating rapidly before the car continued with its momentum and ran over her,’’ a police spokesman said.

Mrs Billett suffered critical injuries and died a short time later.

‘‘As the other passenger is trying to get out, the steeringwheel has locked and the car has began moving in an anti-clockwise direction, ejecting her from the car as well,’’ the police spokesman said.

‘‘The passenger has suffered a concussion, but no other injuries and the car has come to a rest a short distance away.’’

The police spokesman said crime scene officers had attended the scene and were confident the witness account was accurate.

At least eight tennis players are believed to have witnessed the incident or its aftermath and rushed to the aid of the two women.

Mrs Langworthy is a life member and secretary-treasurer of the Cessnock District Tennis Club where the Beryl Searston Memorial Tennis Courts are named after her mother.

She was a champion player in her youth and a coach at Cessnock for decades before she took over the administration side of the club.

Tennis club coach Col Andrews said players and club members were still coming to terms with the tragedy last night.

‘‘Everyone around here is taking it pretty hard, it’s a real shock,’’ Mr Andrews said.

‘‘This is Nancy’s second home, she is here three times a day and basically runs the tennis courts.

‘‘Her sister is a lovely woman, they both are. They are really well-known around here, Leila played tennis here for years. It’s a sad day for us, the club is in mourning.’’

Another long-serving tennis club member, who asked not to be named, described Mrs Billett as a ‘‘lovely lady’’.

‘‘We are just devastated, it’s such a freak thing,’’ she said.

‘‘Leila must have been visiting to have a look at the renovated caretaker’s lodgings.

‘‘I think she has driven into the narrow driveway and had trouble reversing out.’’

Those who arrived at the tennis club throughout the afternoon and night were still trying to understand how such a tragic incident could have occurred.

‘‘No matter how it happened, it’s bloody sad,’’ Mr Andrews said.

‘‘I know them as people and they are not careless.’’

Police are investigating Mrs Billett’s death and will prepare a report for the coroner.