Coroner warns of drink-driving risk after death crash


Three people die in Hampshire road incident

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A CORONER has warned of the dangers of young people drinking and driving following the tragic death of an 18-year-old.

An inquest heard Sebastian Rigby died when his car hit a tree when he was on his way to meet up with some friends.

The keen sportsman, of Stein Road, Southbourne, near Emsworth, died instantly in the car crash on the A286 at West Dean, near Chichester.

The hearing at Worthing Magistrates’ Court heard the Chichester High School for Boys pupil had been at a barbecue with friends at the start of the Easter holidays earlier this year.

Sebastian, who had been drinking red wine and lager, decided to head to Thursdays nightclub in Chichester shortly before midnight on April 18.

CCTV footage from the premises in Drayton Lane showed a young man trying to open the club’s doors, before returning to his car.

The teenager was killed in a crash just half a mile from his destination as he headed back to West Dean to rejoin his friends.

His body was found in the wreckage the next morning by a local man on his way to work.

The inquest was told Sebastian had passed his driving test in January.

He had bought a Ford Fiesta two months before gaining his full licence. Forensic police officers who investigated the scene after his death did not find any fault with it.

PC Andrew Slark, forensic collision investigator at Sussex Police, told the inquest it appeared he had failed to correct the vehicle in time after hitting a grass bank.

More than a dozen of Sebastian’s friends were at the hearing to offer support to his family.

One, Henry Bell, told the inquest that Sebastian was very popular at school. He described his pal as a ‘typical 18-year-old driver’ who would occasionally go fast but was confident behind the wheel.

He said he had tried to persuade Sebastian not to drive on the night of his death, telling him he had drunk too much.

A post mortem found he had blood alcohol levels of 178mg per 100ml, more than twice the legal limit of 80mg.

PC Slark told the hearing that drinking could affect motorists’ judgment when driving and led to ‘delayed reactions, impaired balance and co-ordination’.

Assistant deputy coroner for Sussex, Bridget Dolan, recorded a verdict of accidental death and expressed her sympathy to his family.

‘It is very sad to hear of a young man of such promise, a man who was very much liked by his friends as we can see today,’ she said.

‘It is a sad tale of the dangers of drinking and driving combined with the impetuousness and belief in invulnerability of youth.’