Coroner warns about speeding after two die in 90mph crash

INQUEST: Jack Hamilton and Anthony Butler
INQUEST: Jack Hamilton and Anthony Butler
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Two best friends were killed when the car they were travelling in crashed into a tree at speeds of up to 90mph.

Jack Hamilton, 24, and Anthony Butler, 25, died instantly after the gold Ford Focus struck a tree and split in half near Brylea Caravan Park in Lea Lane, Lea, Preston, in June, Preston Coroner’s Court heard yesterday.

I’ve not seen a car travelling as fast as that in all the time I’ve been travelling along that road.”

Cliff Sturgeon

Driver Anthony, of The Green, Ribbleton, who only had a provisional licence at the time, suffered catastrophic injuries in the high-speed crash. Front seat passenger Jack, of Alder Road, Grange, was thrown through the car window and suffered multiple catastrophic injuries.

An inquest into the deaths heard that a third passenger, Aaron Hampson, who was in a back seat, managed to survive but suffered serious leg and lung injuries.

Coroner Dr James Adeley urged young people to cut their speed, warning: “It’s not like in computer games, you don’t get to start over.”

He said: “In terms of a car splitting in two, I have only come across this once before in a decade and indicates an extremely high-speed impact.”

Cliff Sturgeon, a fitter, was travelling on Lea Lane in the opposite direction to the Focus at the time of the crash.

He told the inquest: “I’ve not seen a car travelling as fast as that in all the time I’ve been travelling along that road.”

He described how he saw the car weaving at speed as it approached him and then moving onto the wrong side of the road after it passed him, eventually disappearing from sight following a hump in the road.

Nigel Wilcock, a mechanical engineer, was further behind Mr Sturgeon on the road, travelling to a GP’s appointment at 3.50pm.

He told the court: “The gold car came over the brow out of control.

“It seemed to be slightly out and then it veered straight off towards the edge of the caravan park, straight through the sign for the caravan park.

“My car was sprayed with debris, some glass came through the window, so I pulled over to the left and got out.”

PC Robert Newcombe, a collision investigator for Lancashire Constabulary, inspected the remains of the Focus and found no mechanical defects had contributed to the collision.

Estimating that the car was travelling between 80 and 90mph, he said that as it travelled over a small crest of the road, the suspension would have decompressed, causing the steering to become lighter and possibly affecting control.

Further along the road, scrape marks were found where the underside of the car hit the asphalt.

PC Newcome believes Anthony tried to correct the steering once the suspension recompressed – at first turning left, then right – causing the car to spin.

The car hit rocks at the entrance of the caravan park, destroyed a fence, slid slideways along a grass verge, hit a tree and split into two parts.

Both men died instantly from multiple and non-survivable injuries. Anthony’s body was found trapped in the front section of the car with his seat belt wrapped around him. Jack was thrown through the window.

Aaron was in the rear section and was airlifted to the Royal Preston Hospital.

Statements taken from family members of Aaron Hampson while he was in hospital said he claimed the car hit 90mph as it went over a bridge and he pleaded with Anthony to slow down.

He later claims he cannot remember much about the day, other than hitting a tree and being airlifted to hospital.

Tests carried out on Anthony and Jack’s bodies revealed they had not consumed alcohol, but had both used cannabis and cocaine prior to the crash.

Forensic toxicologist Kirstin Turner told the inquest it wasn’t possible to say if the drugs had had any impact on the men’s behaviour.

However, she said cocaine use was associated with aggressive driving and risk taking. Cannabis is linked to slower reaction times and drowsiness.

Dr Adeley delivered a verdict of death in a road traffic collision for both men. He said that excessive speed was the principle factor for the crash.

Addressing the large number of family and friends in court, he said: “These days everybody believes that crash protection will save you life, but at these speeds it won’t.

“If this teaches you anything, if these young men’s deaths mean anything, then drive within the speed limits and get some additional training.”

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