Car carrying Northampton friends swerved onto wrong side of road before fatal crash, inquest hears

Four friends were killed instantly on the way home from a vegan festival after their car swerved into the wrong side of the road in a horrific crash with a car carrying a family of three, an inquest heard today.

Tuesday, 22nd November 2016, 4:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 10:27 am
Brogan Warren, Sam Kay, Nicoletta Tocco and Krop Jones lost their lives in a tragic road accident in May.

Driver Samuel 'Krop' Jones and friends Sam Kay, - who had worked in Northampton - and Nicoletta Tocco and Brogan Warren - who were both from Northampton - all died in the collision along the notorious A420 in Oxfordshire while travelling home from VegFest in Bristol.

The group of friends - all aged in their twenties - were travelling in a black Citroen Saxo, which crashed head-on into a black Mercedes just before midnight on Sunday, May 22.

Twenty-three-year-old driver Samuel, a welder, crossed over into the wrong side of the road into the opposite lane of traffic towards the Mercedes being driven by Jean-Paul Gashema.

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Mr Gashema tried to swerve out of the way in a bid to avoid a crash. However, when Mr Jones tried to do the same they collided in the central reservation resulting in the quadruple fatal crash.

Mental health care worker Sam, aged 24, Nicoletta, an administrative clerk, aged 25 , were cut free from the wreckage by paramedics but were pronounced dead at the scene.

Samuel and Brogan were also pronounced dead shortly after the crash at around 11.17pm after suffering multiple injuries, with evidence leading investigators to believe Miss Warren was not wearing a seatbelt. However, a collision investigator claimed her fate would have remained the same even if she had been wearing one.

Mr Gashema, his wife and their three-year-old son were also injured in the crash, which left Mr Jones's Saxo on its roof.

In a statement read during the inquest in Oxford, Mr Gashema said: "The journey went well until after the McDonald's roundabout and three or four minutes later the accident happened.

"The road is straight but slightly uphill and there is a slight dip in the road, where it used to flood all the time. Ahead I saw another car on my side of the road and I saw the lights. They seemed to be bouncing around.

"The other car was on my side and coming straight at us.

"I had time to think to myself what are they doing, are they foreign and on the wrong side.

"I kept hoping it would go onto its correct side and in the end I had to do something and slowed down. The only option was for me to go to the right to avoid it.

"I moved towards the lane on the right and suddenly the other driver must have realised what he was doing and we met in the middle of the road.

"The other car went in the air and upside down and I gripped the steering wheel to control the car.

"Even if they had had time, they would never have been able to control that car. There was absolutely no-one else about and there was no movement from the other car."

Mobile phones were recovered by police at the scene but were so damaged it was made impossible to analyse them.

A collision forensic investigator said he believed Brogan was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of impact and had no reason to suggest the Saxo had been travelling in excess of the 60mph speed limit.

Police Constable James Henderson said: "The vehicle had sustained catastrophic damage and the most significant damage was to the front offside corner.

"I examined each of the four seat belts. The rear offside seatbelt was in a stored position and I couldn't find any webbing. I don't believe this seatbelt was being worn at the time of the collision.

"I don't believe wearing the seatbelt would have made any difference in this case."

Recording a conclusion of road traffic collision, Senior Coroner for Oxfordshire Darren Salter said it is impossible to know the reason behind the cause of the crash.

He said: "Pc Henderson refers to a couple of potential causes which are driver fatigue and driver distraction.

"It seems likely, having discounted other causes, that these are the most likely potential causes.

"Alcohol was below the legal limits and is not something that contributed to the accident."

Mr Salter, having also heard that THC, the active chemical in cannabis, was not present and dismissed suggestions cannabis could have affected Mr Jones' driving leading up to the crash.

He added: "I couldn't say that alcohol or cannabis caused or contributed to this collision because the evidence isn't there for it. That leads us back to fatigue, perhaps nodding off at the wheel, or some kind of distraction inside or outside the vehicle."