Verdict on crash involving driver, 14

IT was sheer lunacy for a 14-year-old to drive a fast car along a Fen road a coroner told an inquest in Huntingdon on Thursday. Within two minutes, the BMW car was up-side-down in a water-filled ditch. The boy and his passengers were trapped and his two

IT was "sheer lunacy" for a 14-year-old to drive a fast car along a Fen road a coroner told an inquest in Huntingdon on Thursday.

Within two minutes, the BMW car was up-side-down in a water-filled ditch. The boy and his passengers were trapped and his two young passengers drowned, the inquest heard.

Deputy Coroner, Dr Colin Lattimore, heard how the car had bumped and swerved along the single-track road.

Dr Lattimore said: "Once again, the waters of the Fens have claimed two more victims. But this is a tragedy that never should have happened.

"A 14-year-old boy should not be driving a car on a public road. A 22-year-old qualified driver should not have allowed a 14-year-old to drive a car on a public road. He was driving a powerful car on an uneven road. This was an act of sheer lunacy."

He added: "It is considered a matter of public concern when events like this happen. There is not just the tragic loss of two young lives. Two families have been devastated and that devastation will last a long time. Any unqualified person tempted to get behind the wheel of a vehicle should remember events like this."

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The inquest heard that this had been only the second time the driver had been behind the wheel. Two days earlier, he had driven the same BMW car in another location.

The tragedy happened on May bank holiday this year, Monday May 7. Two electricians, Bob Hunt, 22, from Staunch Hill Road, Sawtry and James Aylesbury, 22, from Mill Road, Stilton, were returning home from work they wanted to finish before Mr Mr Hunt went on holiday.

The l4-year-old was being given a driving lesson, in the car Mr Hunt had recently bought from Mr Aylesbury.

The inquest heard that Mr Hunt was sitting in the front passenger seat and Mr Aylesbury in the back.

In a statement read out, the boy said he had been driving for about two minutes and going at between 40 and 50 miles an hour.

He said the car had veered to the left. "Robert didn't think I had the vehicle in control. He put his hand on the steering wheel. He turned the wheel to the right and oversteered, then I turned the wheel to the left, then the back end of the car slipped on the grass and into the water, then I think the car slipped over."

PC Peter Bimpson told the coroner a witness had reported seeing the dark blue car go over a level crossing "travelling way over 40mph and bouncing all over the road. Another witness said the car was "travelling fast".

Pc Bimpson said: "The car veered to the nearside, we understand that when Mr Hunt took hold of the wheel and turned it to the right, the car struck the verge sharply, it then went left, back to the nearside, it rotated 90 degrees and then crossed the verge into the ditch. It overturned and was submerged so that all three people were trapped and Mr Hunt and Mr Aylesbury received fatal injuries."

The inquest heard how the boy driver had been hysterical when three farmers rescued him from the car.

In a statement read to the court, Adrian Bowyer, from Holme described how he was alerted to the emergency by his neighbour Ian Redhead who had seen the car go into the drain. They drove to the scene in Mr Bowyer's Land Rover but when they reached the car he could see that it was up-side-down with the doors were trapped shut by the ditch.

"I could see the underside and I could hear people crying and screaming in the vehicle."

To free them, Mr Bowyer drove 300 yards back home to collect a haulage truck and got further help from another farmer, Graham Smith so there would be enough strength between them to lift the car out of the water.

They fastened a strap to the submerged car and Mr Bowyer drove his car forward slowly pulling the car up sideways.

"When the car was half-in and half-out, I could see one of the occupants trying to climb out of the front window. We pulled the boy out and he was hysterical shouting, 'My mates! My mates!'"

Mr Aylesbury was pulled from the back of the car and Mr Redhead cut Mr Hunt's seatbelt to free him. The inquest heard that both men died later in Peterborough Hospital.

The three rescuers are to receive Royal Humane Society awards on the commendation of Cambridgeshire Police.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Dr Lattimore said: "I too, wish to offer my commendations to these three men, without their efforts, this would have been a triple tragedy, not a double tragedy."

* The 14-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has already appeared at Huntingdon Youth Court and pleaded guilty to driving carelessly and without insurance or a licence. He has been banned from driving until he is 20 and has been sentenced to a 12-month referral order, a community penalty for a first time offender. His mother was ordered to contribute £35 towards prosecution costs.