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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Cumbria death crash teenager probably fell asleep at wheel

A teenager died after his car mounted a verge, hit another vehicle and was struck by a transit van on the A595 near Wigton, an inquest heard.

Luke Andrew Heywood, 19, who lived and worked at Scafell Hotel in Borrowdale, was said to have fallen asleep at the wheel of his black Peugeot 206 before the accident on February 28 this year.

Coroner David Roberts said it was “probable” that Mr Heywood had woken up after striking a boulder and tried to right his car. This caused him to veer onto the road and hit a Volkswagon.

That impact caused Mr Heywood’s car to turn clockwise before a Ford Transit van, which was following the VW, hit the passenger side of Mr Heywood’s vehicle.

Mr Heywood died instantly from a broken neck.

A toxicology report carried out on April 24 found that he had low levels of cannabis and methadrone in his blood. Mr Heywood had been to see his mother and sisters at their home at Greyrigg Avenue in Cockermouth at about 3.30pm on the day of his death before setting off to visit a friend in Carlisle. His mother Rebecca Bridget Heywood said: “He had admitted taking cannabis to me in the past but told me not to worry because it wasn’t a big amount. His driving seemed fine to me whenever I was in the car with him.

“He was very gentle, very sensitive, a very loving son and very protective of his sisters and me. He is a big loss.”

Michael James Bell, who was driving behind Mr Heywood in the direction of Carlisle, said he had noticed Mr Heywood’s car swerve towards a verge just after the Torpenhow turn off and swerve back into the middle of the north bound lane.

A few seconds later Mr Heywood’s car mounted the verge near West Lodge and travelled along the grass some distance, reaching a paved area before trying to move back onto the carriageway.

Mr Bell said: “The car seemed to jump around quite a bit when it was moving back towards the lane I was travelling in.”

Malcolm John Rothery, who was driving the Volkswagon Touran and had his wife and daughter in the car, said Mr Heywood’s car “seemed to hit something” and then was “catapulted” in the direction of his vehicle.

Thomas Henry Ferguson, who was driving the Ford Transit van, said: “I could see that the vehicle was on two wheels because I could see underneath. I had hardly any time to turn it at all.”

Other witnesses said that Mr Heywood was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the incident but his mother said she had signalled to him from the doorway to put on his seatbelt and he had appeared to put it on and gave her “a thumbs up” before driving off.

An investigation carried out by PC Michael Lazonby on the three vehicles involved concluded that there were no mechanical faults, defects of failures that could have contributed to the incident.

Mr Heywood’s father John Andrew Heywood, said: “He was a very gentle, loving man, who loved his mum and sisters.

Mr Heywood, attended Cockermouth School.

In a written statement after the inquest his family said: “We love Luke dearly and miss him deeply every day. He will be in our hearts and thoughts and part of our lives always.

“As with many teenagers, he made mistakes and found many things about life difficult and hard to cope with. We watched him building his confidence and starting to make positive plans for his future and we will always feel very proud of him. We are so thankful to everyone who tried to help Luke at the scene of the accident.”

Recording a verdict of accidental death coroner Mr Roberts said: “He had been working hard at the hotel, long hours. Although it was only 4pm in the afternoon, for me it is likely he had gone to sleep behind the wheel.”

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