Three British holiday-makers were killed on a Caribbean paradise island when a speeding conch shell poacher smashed into their hire car while being pursued by police, an inquest heard today.
Retired husband and wife Ian and Pamela Mansell, 72 and 74, and Mrs Mansell's sister Marlene Wright, 60, were enjoying a dream holiday in the Cayman Islands when they tragically died.
They were killed instantly when they were struck head-on by the 22-year-old driver of a black Honda Accord who was travelling at nearly 60mph as he tried to elude police.
The driver, Shannay Delapenha, who also died, was found to have been travelling with a 'significant number' of poached conch shells - two days outside the date when it is illegal to collect them in the Cayman Islands.
Anyone caught with illegally fished conch can face serious punishment from island authorities as they try to protect the under threat species from exploitation.
IT consultant Mr Mansell and his health professional wife, from Farnham, Surrey, and Mrs Wright, of Liphook, were holidaying in Grand Cayman when they were killed on May 2 last year.
An inquest into their deaths today revealed the Honda Accord travelled round a bend late at night at such speed Mr Mansell - who was driving the hired Kia Rio - didn't have time to move out of the way.
Cayman Islands traffic crash investigator Lenford Butler, who arrived at the scene of the collision, said in a statement: “[The Honda] passed a marked police car going in the opposite direction.
‘[The police officer driving the car], locked in the speed of the Honda as 57mph as it passed in the 30mph limit.
‘The police officer engaged the car’s blue lights. The Honda continued on the eastbound lane towards the bend.
‘Due to the fact the Honda was travelling at a greater speed, the force of the Honda pushed back the Kia.
‘The Honda did not follow the curvature of the right hand bend and drifted over the centre line.
‘The driver of the Kia didn’t have time to react to the Honda.’
On the Cayman Islands, the open season for conch collecting begins on November 1 and runs until April 30 each year.
During that time, up to five conch can be taken from the water per person or 10 per boat per day, whichever is less, according to regulations.
Conch - the shell that played a significant role in William Golding's famed novel Lord of the Flies - can only be taken from areas that are not within designated marine protected areas around the three islands, including Wildlife Interaction Zones.
Concluding today's hearing at Basingstoke Coroner's Court, Hants, Coroner Andrew Bradley said: “On May 2, 2017, Ian Mansell was driving his car along Austin Connolly Drive in the hours of darkness.
‘He was struck by an oncoming car which failed to navigate a bend and collided with him head on.
‘The verdict I enter is the accidental death verdict because I don’t think the driver of the Honda set out to kill the Mansells.’
An inquest into the death of Mr Delapenha earlier this year in the Cayman Islands concluded that he died of blunt force trauma to the head and body in an act of ‘misadventure’.
Two passengers in the Honda - an 11-year-old boy and a 26-year-old - received hospital treatment following the crash.
After the inquest, Roger Trout paid tribute to his neighbours Mr and Mrs Mansell, who served for many years on the General Medical Council and the Health and Care Professions Council.
Mr Trout said: ‘They were wonderful people, most often the life and soul of the party.
‘Their death was a huge shock for a great number of people. I think 250 people attended the funeral.’
The Mansells had no children and left their assets to charities and their two pet cats.