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AA abandons mother and children on isolated road after computer glitch


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AA abandons mother and children on isolated road after computer glitch


Last updated at 00:00am on 10th November 2006

trishmilne091106_228x241.jpgDriven to despare: Mum of three Trish Milne with her six year old daughter Mairi. The AA abandoned them after their car broke down on an isolated road




The AA has apologised to an angry mum who they left stranded in her broken down car on a dark isolated country road after the "disgraceful" motoring organisation told them they were not on their maps.

Trish Milne and two of her three children spent hours waiting for the rescue service - whose breakdown advert says 'You've Got AA Friend' - only to be told they were not going to come out to help them.


Trish, 42, was driving her six year old daughter Mairi back from a hospital appointment when her car broke down on the edge of Dartmoor.

The single track road at Denham Bridge, near Yelverton, Devon, is at the bottom of a deep wooded valley where there was no mobile signal.

She, Mairi, and son Robbie, 12, had to walk a quarter of a mile and knock on the door of the nearest house before they could call the AA.

Former social worker Trish was astonished at the response of the AA who spent 15 minutes on the phone and told her the road did not exist because it was not on their computerised mapping system.

Even when she gave the postcode of the house where she was calling from the AA controllers refused to acknowledge the location existed.

She gave instructions on how to get there and returned to wait in her car. But after more than two hours the AA rang the house where she had called from to say they were not coming out.

Trish only got home when the Good Samaritan, Tony Waites, who had let her use his home telephone, brought out a watering can full of water to get her car started again.

The car was left in a dangerous spot on the road with barely enough room for other vehicles to get by.

Trish was able to limp back to her home in nearby Bere Alston, Devon, but the journey caused irreparable damage to the water pump on her car.

She is now planning to leave the AA and has written to complain about the service she received.

She said: "I was bringing the children home and going to pick up my nine-year-old daughter Ella from my fathers when the car broke down.

"There was no mobile signal so we walked to the nearest house where the people were brilliant and let us use their phone to call the AA.

"It took 15 minutes to get through and when I did the operator could not find us on their map. Even when we gave the post code of the house they insisted it was at Buckland Abbey, which is miles away.

"The AA man asked ten times if we were mistaken and even when we gave directions they could not find the place on their map.

"We went back to the car to wait and it was very dark and scary and cold. Luckily my kids are all right in the dark but many would have been very frightened.

"When we had been waiting for more than two hours the man from the house walked down to tell us the AA had rung to say they were not coming out in the near future.

"The man walked back to his house and fetched a watering can to get us going again but we only just made it home and the car overheated again.

"I think it is a disgrace that they left a woman on her own with two young children in such an isolated and vulnerable location. We should have been given priority.

"It was extremely dark and there were other vehicles coming past on a narrow road. Obviously their mapping system could not pick us up so they just left us there."

Trish was returning from Plymouth where Mairi had been for a hospital check up because she had been critically ill after suffering from meningitis in the past and needs to keep warm.

Trish's father Brian Lamb said: "I am absolutely appalled at the sheer lack of concern shown for a woman and her family on a lonely road. This is a woman who has been left on her own with two children in the dark, in a car with no heating, in a totally isolated spot.

"The AA seems only to exist for the benefit of its shareholders, certainly not its members." Good Samaritan Tony Waites said: "It's very lonely down there, it's the back of beyond. I think I would have lost my temper. Mum was very calm and very sensible.

"It made me so cross. You pay a fee for the AA and this was ridiculous, they just couldn't understand where we were.

"If we hadn't been there I don't know what she would have done, she could have been there for hours."

An AA spokesman apologised saying: "We have to hold up our hands - it could have been handled a lot better.

"The road where the car broke down is officially unnamed and this lead to problems trying to pinpoint the exact location of the vehicle.

"Our systems do allow for this but regrettably the patrol failed to follow these instructions. Although the patrol did arrive on scene to find that the car had gone, we fully accept that this was due to the unacceptable delay in dispatching a patrol.

"Our investigations have revealed further errors by individuals that are being addressed internally.

"We would like to apologise unreservedly to Ms Milne and her family for the distress and inconvenience suffered. We will be contacting them to address the matter."

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