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No explanation found for North Devon link road crash which killed an 18-year-old

By NDJFran  |  Posted: March 26, 2014


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AN inquest could not determine why a car crashed into an oncoming van, killing its 18-year-old driver.

Craig Sankey died after the Renault Clio he was driving collided with a Volkswagen Transporter on the A361 in 2012.

Mr Sankey, who was a sapper of the 24 Commando Engineer Regiment, was travelling to his base at RMB Chivenor in North Devon on Thursday, June 7 2012 following a training course in Lympstone.

His home address was Whiston-on-Dunsmoor in Coventry.

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An inquest heard his mother, Rachel Gulwell, say her son called her home phone at around 5.20pm and spoke to his stepfather Rob.

“I would describe his mood as being really happy,” she said in her statement. “He was delighted he had passed his assessment work.”

Mrs Gulwell later sent a text message to her son before having a visit from police 10 minutes later to inform her of the accident.

The inquest heard a statement from Stuart Damon, a survival instructor for the Ministry of Defence, who had previously run a training course which Mr Sankey had attended.

He was travelling towards Chivenor on the same day as Mr Sankey along the A361 when he described seeing “debris flying in the air”.

Mr Damon was still in his uniform and got out to see if he could help.

“The driver of the van came towards me holding his chest,” the inquest heard. “There were two girls with him who seemed upset.

“They said ‘will someone tell us what happened, we have just woken up’.”

Mr Damon went to Mr Sankey’s car and noticed a lot of items inside, including military bags.

“I then saw the name and knew it was one of the students from the course,” he said.

The inquest heard from Stuart Crisp, the driver of the VW Transporter, who said he was driving home in the Tiverton direction following a trip to Woolacombe with his two daughters.

“There were cars approaching in the opposite direction,” he said. “Suddenly I saw one of the cars start to come on to my side of the road. I saw it cross over into my path.

“It was so close I had no time to break or take evasive action.”

There was a head on collision which crumpled the front of Mr Sankey’s car.

Fire crews had to cut the roof off to free him and he was transferred to North Devon Hospital where he died on June 9.

The inquest heard from Christopher Wright from the Exeter Serious Collisions Investigation Unit who confirmed there was no recorded use of a mobile phone before the crash.

John Snow, forensic vehicle examiner, added there were no mechanical defects with Mr Sankey’s car.

PC Glynn Griffin told the coroner if Mr Sankey had not moved his steering wheel while going round the slight bend on the A361 then the point of impact is where he would have ended up.

Coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland recorded it was an accidental death.

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