A DAD who died with his toddler son in a crash was probably distracted by his children when their car drifted into the path of an oncoming lorry.

Michael Jopson, 25, might have glanced in the rear view mirror or turned his head in the moments before his Peugeot was in a head-on collision with a truck, an inquest heard.

Both the service station supervisor and his son, 18-month old Tony, died instantly on the A66 in one of the most shocking fatal crashes in Cumbria in recent years.

Mr Jopson’s other son, two-month-old Logan, suffered serious injuries in the crash but has since made a good recovery.

Cumbria’s senior coroner David Roberts said he could not say the road was at fault in the tragedy, which happened on a single carriageway stretch of the A66 near Crackenthorpe.

But he is to write to the Government over improvements to the route, saying future fatalities were possible unless it was upgraded.

Details of the heartbreaking tragedy emerged as an inquest was held in Carlisle into the death of the father and son who lived at Tebay, on May 25 last year.

The hearing was told Mr Jopson, had been at work at Tebay Services on the day of the crash and was left in charge of the two children while wife Tamarah went to work.

Witness William Smart was behind him on the route as the horror unfolded.

Mr Smart told the inquest: “The car in front started gradually drifting over to the other side of the road.”

Coming the other way was a lorry.

Mr Smart said: “The car hit the driver’s side of the lorry.”

Christopher Reed, a First Aid instructor, was also on the road.

The inquest, held at The Courts in the city centre, heard that in the aftermath of the crash he grabbed his First Aid kit and ran towards the scene.

He saw Tony. Mr Reed told the inquest: “There was clearly nothing I could do to help.”

Mr Reed added: “I called to the driver. It was clear that there was no breathing and other injuries.”

The crash scene The inquest heard he then heard “a faint cry”.

“I crawled in through the back window,” said Mr Reed.

“I found a baby still strapped into the seat.”

He weighed up whether to move the child, considering injuries to the baby and decided Logan was best out of the car.

“I managed to extract him out of the car.”

John Hessan was driving the truck, having set off from Northern Ireland that morning.

He said he saw a “car coming out of the line of traffic”.

“It kept coming to my side of the road,” added Mr Hessan.

“I realised he wasn’t going to stop.”

Mr Hessan braked and turned the lorry to the left.

“It just kept coming,” he told the inquest.

Examinations found no problems with the car. The lorry was being driven below its speed limit.

Crash investigations concluded Mr Hessan was left “with no realistic chance of avoiding collision”.

Both father and son died of their injuries.

PC Craig Irvine said there was no evidence to suggest the collision was the result of a deliberate act and alcohol was not a factor.

He told the inquest it was considered if fatigue may have played a part.

PC Irvine added: “We considered if there were any distractions.”

The boys, the court heard, were usually well-behaved in the car.

But PC Irvine added: “Evidence from Tamarah suggested Tony was somewhat unsettled, out-of-sorts and needing attention.

“When Michael returned home from work just after 3pm, Tony was not any better.”

PC Irvine said the collision could have happened as a result of one or a combination of a number of factors.

“Michael suffered from the onset of fatigue or became distracted by his son Tony, who was out-of-sorts,” he added.

“The evidence to me points towards a distraction. It just takes a couple of seconds.”

Mr Roberts, summing up, said: “The only explanation which I think is at all probable – something must have distracted him.”

He said it may have been “one or both of the kids in the back of the car was playing up”.

“Whether he was simply distracted by the child behind when he looked in the rear view mirror, whether he turned back, it could be any number of factors,” added Mr Roberts.

He recorded a verdict of death by road traffic collision.

Coroner wants A66 upgrade

Mr Roberts said deaths might be avoided if the A66 was upgraded. 

David Roberts

The route, he added, varied between “excellent dual carriageway” to “old A road”. 

“I’m concerned that the nature of this road is such that dualling it throughout would reduce the number of accidents in inquests in this court,” he added. 

“In this particular instance I can’t see there is any fault with the road itself.” 

But he said he proposed to write to the secretary of state for transport and “underline the concern I have that future fatalities are likely unless it is upgraded”. 

“Future deaths might be avoided if that road is improved.”