A trainspotter who had been visiting a heritage railway in Norfolk died after suffering a heart attack at the wheel of his car on his way home, a court has heard. 

Robert Cowell, of Wootton, Northamptonshire, had left his home early on the morning of June 9 last year to visit the North Norfolk Railway, at Holt

After spending the day watching locomotives, heritage railcars, and shunters at its mixed traction gala, the 79-year-old left the market town at around 2.45pm. 

At around 4pm, his car collided with a van on the A1122 Downham Road at the junction with Willow Heath Road in Crimplesham, west Norfolk. 

Mr Cowell suffered serious injuries and the East Anglian Air Ambulance airlifted him to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. 

His condition deteriorated and he died two weeks later on June 22. 

An inquest into his death was held at Norfolk Coroner’s Court, at County Hall, Norwich, on March 19. 

Evidence read out to the court heard that Mr Cowell was a “sensible, cautious, and experienced driver.” 

Area coroner Samantha Goward said: “A post-mortem revealed significant ischemic damage to the myocardium.

"On the balance of probabilities, this indicates that a heart attack caused or significantly contributed to the road traffic collision.” 

The medical cause of death was multiple trauma due to a road traffic collision contributing to ischemic heart disease.  

Ms Goward concluded he died from “a road traffic collision”. 

His son, Richard Cowell, a university lecturer, attended the inquest remotely. 

Dr Cowell said: “He was a lifelong rail enthusiast who, having spotted every locomotive he possibly could in the UK, then made it his goal to travel on as many of them as possible. 

“In the weeks prior to his accident, Robert seemed happier than he had been for quite some time. 

“After the enforced restrictions of the pandemic, he was thoroughly enjoying being able to lead a full and active life once again. 

“The shocking, violent nature of Robert's accident has been immensely difficult to come to terms with. 

“He was a constant, dependable presence at the heart of our family and his death has affected us profoundly.” 

  • To pay tribute to a loved one, email norfolkobituaries@newsquest.co.uk   
  • To read all obituaries and tributes join the Facebook group Norfolk's Loved & Lost.