TWO young men died almost instantaneously when the car they were in slid out of control and embedded itself into the front of a lorry travelling in the other direction.
Lee ‘Fattz’ Harrington, aged 27 and from Penzance, and Nathan ‘Caveman’ Percival, 26 and from Launceston, both died at the scene of the accident on the A30 between Crowlas and Cockwells, near Penzance, on Sunday, August 18 last year at 9.45pm.
The friends had been travelling towards Penzance in a silver-coloured Citroen Saxa driven by Mr Harrington when the car careered across the road into the path of a Foden Tipper truck driven by Michael Leah.
A fierce fire, engulfing both vehicles quickly broke out with flames reaching 30 feet into the sky but Mr Leah was able to get out of his lorry cab, suffering cuts and bruises to the head and a sprained wrist.
An inquest at Truro heard that such was the ferocity of the blaze that Mr Harrington’s identity was only later established through dental records while Mr Percival’s was confirmed through DNA analysis. They had both suffered severe and multiple injuries from the collision and it was considered both men died very rapidly at the scene before suffering burns.
Two witnesses, travelling down the A30 toward Penzance from the Hayle direction the same evening, had stated that a silver Saxo had been travelling at high speed shortly before the crash but forensic collision investigator PC John Hitchcock, said that there were “too many unknown variables to calculate the speed of the Saxo”.
Both vehicles had been damaged to such an extent was such that neither of them was in a condition to be examined for information which might explain why the accident had happened nor were there sufficient tracks and skids to calculate the pre-collision speeds of the vehicles.
PC Hitchcock said: “There was nothing in the climatic or road conditions that could have caused the accident. I would say that some degree of excess speed was a contributory factor.”
Mr Leah, from Ludgvan, told the Truro inquest that from the time of his first seeing the Saxo to the collision was only a matter of seconds.
“I noticed a set of headlights coming around the bend but then they twisted to point into the hedge so I assumed the car was in a spin,” he said.
“I think the driver wanted to correct it; the car mounted the verge and that spun him towards me passenger side first at terrific speed. The car headed straight for me and then there was a huge bang and collision. Basically he lost control of the car on the bend.”
Mr Leah, who had been intending to sleep in his cab overnight to enable an early start in Callington the following morning, added that the fierceness of the fire might have been exacerbated by his having butane gas cylinders on board for cooking purposes.
In recording both men’s deaths as being from multiple injuries, Cornwall Coroner Emma Carlyon said: “The car and the lorry both caught fire which tainted some of the evidence. The reason why the driver lost control has not been established and we have not reliably been able to estimate the speed of the Saxo.”