Inquest hears drink-driver’s vehicle topped 115mph as it entered village

Three killed as speeding  car with Denholme driver hit shop, inquest hears

Jade Best

Daniel Hague

First published in News

A drink-driver from Denholme had been travelling in excess of 115mph in a 30mph zone through a village before he lost control and crashed, killing himself and his two passengers, an inquest heard.

In the hours before the late-night tragedy, married Adam Ruthven, 27, had been out playing pool and talking to friends “buzzing” about the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution he had just bought.

The hearing in Bradford was told on Friday how the high-powered car in which serving soldier Daniel Hague, 32, and Jade Best, 19, were passengers, smashed sideways into a hairdressing salon in Thornton on September 16 last year after he lost control at enormous speed.

Mr Ruthven, of Longhouse Drive in Denholme, Lance Corporal Hague, of Hill Top Road in Thornton, and Miss Best, of Clapham Street in Denholme, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Collin Wood said he recognised the engine noise passing his house and knew without seeing the car it was “the lad who drives dangerously and quickly around the village”.

Darren Rowntree, who was a passenger in another car, described the Mitsubishi “flying past” him so fast it made the car he was in feel stationary.

And Elliott Austin described seeing Mr Ruthven's car “bouncing” along Thornton Road because of its sheer speed.

A friend of Mr Ruthven's, Anthony Wright, described how at about 11pm he had been in the takeaway when he heard a loud noise and knew it was Mr Ruthven’s car. He then saw him lose control and ran after the car as it spun and ploughed sideways into the hairdresser’s shop at the junction with Kipping Lane, making a sound like an explosion as it hit.

At some point during the evening, Mr Ruthven had picked up Lance Cpl Hague, who had been on compassionate leave from his regiment to see his desperately-ill mum, and Miss Best.

The inquest was told there was no firm evidence to prove any of them had been wearing seatbelts.

CCTV examined by police along the Mitsubishi’s route showed a car travelling towards Mr Ruthven, which had just turned right appropriately and safely into First Street, and that he had swerved to the other side of the road to miss it.

That driver had done nothing wrong and could not have realised the high speed the other car was travelling at, said collision investigator, Keith Raynor.

The CCTV footage from nearby businesses also showed the Mitsubishi had travelled a distance of 310 metres in fewer than eight seconds, equating to speeds of up to 115mph.

Recording verdicts all three had died as a result of a road traffic collision, assistant coroner, Tim Ratcliffe, described the car’s speed as “unbelievable”, and noted that could well have been higher as he approached the village.

Mr Ruthven, who had the equivalent of four pints of beer in his system, had lost control, possibly with a panic-type reaction, and the car slid the last 55 metres sideways at a speed of about 60mph before embedding itself into the building with a force that caused structural damage.

A crowd of people quickly gathered round the car and managed to pull Mr Ruthven out to try to revive him. No-one could get to Lance Cpl Hague and no-one initially knew Miss Best was in the back seat until a paramedic checked the door and found her laid across the seat with no pulse and not breathing.

While firefighters battled to free Lance Cpl Hague, who had still been breathing, the paramedic worked on Mr Ruthven, but his head injury was so severe he was pronounced dead. A total of 25 minutes was spent trying to revive Lance Cpl Hague before he too died from head injuries.

Miss Best’s mother, Karen, left the inquest in tears as details of her daughter were given, and one of Mr Ruthven’s family sobbed at the evidence.

Summing up, Mr Ratcliffe said: “What’s clear to me is Adam’s vehicle was travelling at dangerously high speed as it approached Thornton village.

“It’s reasonable to conclude the Mitsubishi altered its course to the off-side of the road to avoid what might have been the other car, and then moved back where, given the speed of the vehicle, things went wrong. Over-correction of the driver’s reaction in an already unstable car became terminally unstable at that point.

“I don’t consider wearing seatbelts would have made any difference to the outcome. One thing that was contributory was the alcohol level of the driver. It was considerably in excess of the legal drink limit, and in terms of the vehicle speed, it was excessive in transgression.

“To drive this kind of vehicle, in this location at a speed at times of more than three times the limit was both dangerous and reckless. Sadly, as a result of that on the part of the driver, three people needlessly lost their lives.”

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