Pedestrian died after being hit by pick-up truck while walking drunk in darkness on A38, inquest hears
A pedestrian had drunk enough alcohol to put him almost four times over the drink-drive limit when he was struck by a pick-up truck on the A38, an inquest has heard. Jeffrey Smith, 35, of Highbridge, had been walking erratically along Bristol Road in Brent Knoll at around 4am on September 17 last year and had caused several motorists to take evasive action before he was struck. Mr Smith sustained a fractured dislocation of his upper cervical spine and was pronounced dead at the scene.
A post-mortem examination found there were also traces of cocaine and diazepam in his system. At an inquest at Somerset Coroner’s Court in Taunton today (Wednesday, June 10), senior coroner for Somerset Tony Williams read out a statement from Mr Smith’s fiancee, Jade Parton. She revealed Mr Smith had been suffering from a drinking problem in the months leading up to his death and had sought medical advice having lost his job as a plumber at Haven Holiday Park.
Looking for today’s top stories in one place? Sign up for our newsletter here. On September 16, he underwent a routine sinus operation at Weston General Hospital in Weston-super-Mare before discharging himself later that day. Miss Parton said Mr Smith appeared agitated, having expressed his desire to have a beer, and had asked her to transfer money into his bank account, which she was unable to do due to a problem with her internet banking app.
She was able to put GBP5 into his bank account, but Miss Parton had expressed surprise that Mr Smith had discharged himself as she had hoped he would seek mental health support while at the hospital. At 2am the following morning, Mr Smith told Miss Parton he was leaving the house to walk back to the hospital in Weston, approximately ten miles away, despite her pleas to him to wait until the morning. At approximately 4am, Nicholas Weston was driving a Mitsubishi L200 pick-up truck along the A38 at Brent Knoll when he became aware of what he described as “a pair of jeans and a carrier bag” in front of him.
The A38 was closed for several hours following the collision (Image: Michael Taylor)
He said he had no chance to avoid a collision and described feeling a “massive impact”.
Mr Weston pulled over and got out of his car, where he saw what he thought was a body in the road behind him. Several passersby stopped and administered first aid to Mr Smith, but he had suffered serious head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. A number of eyewitnesses in the time leading up to the crash reported seeing a man wearing dark clothing walking erratically in the middle of the A38, forcing several of them to take evasive action.
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Mr Smith was also wearing dark clothing, which made him extremely difficult to see in the darkness.
Among the items recovered at the scene were a rucksack and a carrier bag along with several beer cans. A toxicology report carried out following a post-mortem at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton found that Mr Smith had a blood alcohol concentration of 318 milligrams per 100ml of blood, with the legal limit being 80. This, according to Dr Stephen Holwill, who carried out the post-mortem, would “likely have caused a significant impairment of Mr Smith’s cerebral function”.
A police investigation found that Mr Weston’s vehicle had no defects that would likely have contributed to the crash and that while the section of road on which the collision occurred had no street lighting, the road surface and markings were in a good condition. PC Daniel Tatham, forensic collision investigator at Avon and Somerset Police, said: “At around 4am on September 17, Nicholas Weston was driving a Mitsubishi L200 on the A38.
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Suicide Salvation is a monthly support group – the first Thursday of every month, 18.30-20.30 at the Salvation Army, Radstock Road, Midsomer Norton, BA3 2AJ. Ring Steph on 07543 001658 “At the same time, Jeffrey Smith was walking in the same northbound direction with his back to the flow of oncoming traffic while impaired due to the consumption of alcohol.
“Intoxication was not a factor for Mr Weston, while Mr Smith was very drunk, was wearing non-reflective clothing on a road without lighting. “Mr Weston then struck Mr Smith, causing fatal injuries. Based on his experience of that road, Mr Weston would not have expected the sudden appearance of Mr Smith and had an extremely limited amount of time and distance to react and take action to avoid a collision.
“It is my opinion that this collision was unavoidable.” Mr Williams recorded a conclusion of accidental death and listed the cause of death as a fractured dislocation of his upper cervical spine. He said: “I will note that at approximately 4am on September 17, 2019 on the A38 Bristol Road at Brent Knoll, Jeffrey Smith was wearing dark clothing and walking in the road while under the influence of alcohol.
“He was subsequently struck by a motor car and sustained fatal injuries.”