A Falmouth builder has told Cornwall’s coroner there was nothing he could do when his van was involved in a fatal crash on the A39 between Treluswell and Perranarworthal.
In a statement read out at an inquest in Truro, Nicholas Bird described the moment on October 28 2013 that his van was in a collision with a car driven by 21-year-old father-of-one Dominic Christophers, from Bodmin, who died as a result of the collision.
The statement said Mr Bird was driving the van, with his brother Adam in the front passenger seat, from Falmouth to a job at Perranwell Station. The vehicle was travelling downhill near Falbrook House when his brother shouted “look out”, and he saw a car travelling in the middle of the three-lane road coming up the hill towards him “at a 45 degree angle.”
He said: “It crossed the middle line and went straight in front of my van. There was no time to react in any way. I hit him in the middle of my lane, I don’t remember anything else.”
He added: “There was nothing I could do to avoid it.”
Following the collision Mr Bird’s van rolled onto its side. Mr Christophers’ car was spun around by the impact, throwing both himself and his front seat passenger, Callum Matta, through the passenger’s door and onto the road. The van then hit a tree and dropped onto a side road approximately five metres below the level of the A39.
Mr Bird said: “The van rolled and ended up on the driver’s side. We climbed out the passenger door and I saw two males, and someone was tending them, I didn’t want to look.”
His brother also gave a statement, saying: “[The car] was losing control and coming into our lane and towards us.
“It wasn’t straight but at a diagonal with the offside rear more out than it should have been. I can’t recall what happened next.”
The passenger in the car, Callum Matta, was a mason who had known and worked with Mr Christophers for about two months, and told the inquest that they had been travelling to Helston for a job when the crash happened.
He said: “The car was travelling in the inside lane at around 50 miles an hour around a left hand corner when suddenly the rear end slid out towards the driver’s side, making us point to the left even more – pointing towards the verge.
“Dom struggled to recover. He did but overly compensated and the rear slid towards my side. I was aware we were in the middle lane and out of control.
“It was so quick. It’s difficult to describe what happened. We slid in front of the van and it hit the passenger side.”
Mr Matta said that at the time of the collision he had not been wearing a seatbelt, and could not say whether Mr Christophers, pictured above, had been.
Evidence presented by police crash investigator Gary Looker said it was unlikely that either man in the car had been wearing a seatbelt, as the belts were in the stowed position after the crash, and did not show signs which would usually be consistent with a crash.
MPC Looker also said the rear offside tyre, which would have been the main load bearing tyre as the vehicle travelled uphill and to the left, had tread which was worn to below the minimum allowable depth. It also had a slow puncture caused by an embedded nail, although due to damage sustained during the crash it was impossible to say whether the rear tyres had been properly inflated when Mr Christophers lost control.
Cornwall coroner Dr Emma Carlyon gave her verdict as “death from a road traffic collision.”
Mr Christophers’ family said in a statement: “Dominic is sorely missed and has left a big hole in our lives. He was a great son, hard working, loyal and kind. He will be missed by all his family and friends.
“Dominic also leaves behind his daughter Sophia. Her mum Ellie states that Dominic was a loving father who had a great bond with Sophia and she will make sure Sophia grows up knowing what a great man her dad was.”