A HELSTON footballer died after riding his motorbike at top speed while nearly three times over the drink-drive limit and crashing head-on into a van, an inquest heard.
The coroner's court in Truro was told how Wayne Pankhurst's girlfriend, Jessica Billing, had pleaded with him not to go out on his silver Yamaha R1 fearing he had consumed too much alcohol.
Mr Pankhurst, a groundworker, was riding his motorbike on the A3058 St Austell to Newquay road at around 11am on October 15 last year when he struck a Mitsubishi truck in the hamlet of Menna.
Andrew Cox, deputy coroner for Cornwall, was told that Mr Pankhurst, who played for football teams around Helston and the Lizard, had 230mg of alcohol per 100 litres of blood in his system. The legal drink drive limit is 80mg.
The court heard how seconds before the crash Mr Pankhurst had overtaken a van heading towards Newquay.
The driver, Graham Phillips, estimated the motorbike's speed at around 100mph in a 40mph zone, saying he (Mr Pankhurst) was "hammering it" and on the wrong side of the road as he approached a sharp left-hand bend.
Seconds later he described seeing a large fire ball in the sky and then seeing the motorbike in flames on the ground.
He told the court: "He must have been doing more than 100mph, he was a blur ... I saw the bike on fire and petrol pouring on the ground, the rider was lying in the road. The Mitsubishi driver fell onto his knees, shaking saying it wasn't his fault."
Builder Ian Julian, who was heading towards St Stephen in the Mitsubishi when the motorbike struck, said he had no time to react.
PC John Hitchcock, who investigated the scene, said Mr Pankhurst's motorbike had veered two metres onto the opposite side of the road and hit the van.
He said the exact speed of the motorbike could not be calculated but that there was nothing the Mitsubishi driver could have done to avoid the impact.
Mr Pankhurst died as a result of multiple injuries, including a ruptured liver.
Recording a verdict of accidental death Mr Cox ruled out suggestions that a previous injury to Mr Pankhurst's right fingers, which had been crushed, had caused him to crash.
He said Mr Pankhurst's alcohol consumption on the night before and morning of the accident was a major "influence in his death".
"We heard Jessica Billing had refused to go out with him on his motorbike because he had been drinking, a decision that may have saved her life.
"There is a reason why the law tells us not to drink and drive – it affects judgement and leads to injuries and fatal accidents.
"The cause for his death was because he was under the influence of alcohol.
"He got onto his motorbike deliberately, not intending to take his own life, it was accidental death."