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Man died after losing control of car on icy West Norfolk road, inquest told

A 20-year-old farm worker died on New Year's Eve after he lost control of his car due to icy conditions, an inquest has heard.

Norfolk Coroner's Court heard this morning that Haiden Elvin was travelling on the B1145 at Great Massingham towards Lynn on the morning of December 31 when his car collided with a van heading in the opposite direction, towards Weasenham.

Mr Elvin, of Great Ryburgh, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Inquest report (35537606)
Inquest report (35537606)

In a statement read to the court, Godfrey Duggan, who was driving the van, said the moment of the crash was "like an explosion".

Mr Duggan said there had been "hardly any traffic about" that morning.

He said visibility was "very good" and he had slowed down after seeing a lorry coming in the opposite direction.

He said he checked in his rear view mirror briefly that the lorry had "cleared him".

"Then I remember an almighty bang and I blacked out, but I could still hear what was going on," he added.

"I can't remember seeing a car at all, but I now realise that's what it was. It was like an explosion and I could feel air pressure on me."

Mr Duggan said his next memory was being told by a paramedic to get in an ambulance.

"It was such a dreadful accident," he added. "Since then, my thoughts have very much been with the family involved and continue to be."

Crash investigator PC Lee Smart told the inquest that he attended the scene of the crash about an hour and a half after the accident.

He said while there were "no mechanical faults" with Mr Elvin's vehicle, one of his tyres was "marginally" below the legal limit for tread depth.

Mr Smart said he was unable to say whether this had contributed to the handling of the vehicle, and the accident in general.

The inquest was told that both drivers had tested negative for drugs or alcohol.

And analysis of the drivers' phones did not suggest that either had been using the devices at the time.

"It seems probable the road surface was icy at the time of the collision, so the most likely explanation is losing control of his vehicle," Mr Smart said.

The court was told that the B1145 had not been gritted ahead of the collision, as forecasts suggested it was not necessary.

Robert West, a highway engineer for Norfolk County Council, told the court that he had been the county controller overnight on December 30-31, responsible for delivery of highway maintenance.

The evening before the collision, the minimum predicted road surface temperature was two degrees, but the next morning it was lower than expected.

He said the decision was taken not to treat the road as by the time gritters would have got there, the temperature would have increased.

Matthew Worden, a chartered civil engineer for Norfolk County Council, added that the time it takes to grit all priority roads – A and B routes – in the county is three hours.

"Based on the information we had at the time, the right decision was made," Mr Worden said.

Having been asked by senior coroner for Norfolk Jacqueline Lake if the B1145 at Great Massingham is an area where a lot of accidents occur, Mr Worden said: "The county council investigates all injury accidents which we are informed about by the police, and no accidents had been reported in this area within 100 metres for three years."

In summing up the evidence, Mrs Lake said: "I'm satisfied the road was slippery due to the icy conditions and this was the cause of the collision."

She added that she was satisfied there was nothing Mr Duggan could have done to avoid the collision, and that "proper consideration" was given by Highways officials as to whether to grit the stretch of road.

"The appropriate decision was made at that time, with the information and knowledge which was available," she said.

Mr Elvin's medical cause of death was given as multiple traumatic injuries due to a road traffic collision.

Mrs Lake's conclusion was a road traffic collision.

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