A POPULAR doctor who died in a car crash is thought to have fallen asleep at the wheel after working a long night shift.
Ronak Patel, who grew up in Gosport, died last year from a head-on collision in Honington, Suffolk.
An inquest into his death heard from police that the most plausible cause of the crash was Dr Patel falling asleep and then losing control of his car before colliding with a lorry.
The 33-year-old had been talking to his wife using a hands-free mobile phone shortly before the crash and the couple had been singing to help him stay awake, the inquest heard.
His VW Golf collided head-on with a lorry shortly before 9am on August 3 last year.
At the inquest, accident investigator PC Mark Webb said: ‘It is my opinion that the most plausible explanation for the collision was that Dr Patel fell asleep, which prevented him from having appropriate control of his car.’
The results of a police accident investigation ruled out mechanical defects and road conditions as possible causes of the crash.
Dr Patel, a trainee anaesthetist who attended Brune Park School and St Vincent College, had finished the last of three night shifts at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital University.
He had been anxious to get back to his home in Ixworth rather than sleep at the hospital, his wife Helen told police.
Mrs Patel said in a statement that after her husband’s phone cut off suddenly she had tried unsuccessfully to call him back 14 times.
She then started to drive along his route home, but was met by police who said there had been a collision.
Lorry driver Peter Stimpson said in a statement that he had seen Dr Patel’s car come around a bend and start to drift across to the wrong side of the road.
He added that despite braking and pulling his lorry to one side, there was nothing he could do to avoid the impact.
The inquest heard Dr Patel sustained a broken neck and other injuries and the coroner ruled he died as a result of his car being involved in a collision with a heavy goods vehicle.
Following the inquest, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital paid tribute to Dr Patel.
A statement said: ‘He was a highly regarded and capable doctor and was extremely popular within the department.
‘He had a bright future ahead of him in medicine.’
Following the crash his parents Mina and Pat, from Gosport, paid tribute to their son.
Mrs Patel said: ‘We never knew how popular he was until we read all the tributes made about him on Facebook.
‘Ronnie was an inspiration to everyone he met.’