Three British Airways crew died in drink-drive crash after car smashed into lorry
One of three British Airways crew killed in a crash following a New Year’s party was ejected through the car’s sun-roof by the force of the collision. An inquest has heard the young airline staffers died in a horror crash when crew member Dominic Fell, 23, drove while over the drink-drive limit and failed to stop at a crossroads. A coroner heard how the three friends were celebrating the arrival of the New Year when they went for a drive and collided with a lorry at Stanwell in Surrey, south of London.
One victim, a 20-year-old girl, was ejected through the glass sunroof and the other two died in the wreckage. A fourth person in the Toyota Yaris was severely injured but recovered in hospital.
Driver Dominic Fell had been drinking before he got behind the wheel, the inquest heard (Image: HNP Newsdesk/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd)
The coroner warned of the dangers of drinking and driving as he recorded a conclusion today that the trio died as the result of a road accident. The BA crew’s vehicle collided with a truck coming from Heathrow Airport, which was where the young airline workers were based.
The tragedy happened minutes before New Year’s Day as 23-year-old Dominic Fell and best friend Joe Finnis, 25, left a party to pick up colleagues.
Rachel Clark, 20, died in the horrific car crash (Image: HNP Newsdesk/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd)
The coroner heard that the third victim, 20-year-old Rachel Clark – who was not wearing her seatbelt – was ejected through the glass sunroof of the white Toyota Yaris and was found four metres from the wrecked car on Bedfont Road. Following the tragedy, almost GBP100,000 was raised after a British Airways cabin crew member set up a fundraising page. In a statement, fellow cabin crew member and host of the New Year party, Lucy Pemberton, recalled her final moments with the boys.
She told the inquest in Woking, Surrey: “On New Year’s Eve my housemates arranged to have a party to see in the new year with friends. Two people coming were Dom Fell and Joe Finnis who were both BA staff.
Joe Finnis, 25, died in the crash (Image: HNP Newsdesk/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd)
“Dom and Joe were best friends, they were inseparable. Dom used insulin and used a machine which he had been charging in my bedroom.
“We were getting ready for the party and I saw Dom with a bottle of Budweiser but he was staying over so I didn’t think anything of it. “At 11.15pm, I caught the boys in the hall trying to sneak out. I asked them where they were going and they said they were going to pick up some girls and they would be back before the New Year rang in.”
Lucy explained that the boys were using Google maps and were using it to walk the route, before saying “sweet, it’s five minutes away.” “They both went out the front door – that was the last time I saw my friend Dom,” Lucy added. Lorry driver Inderjit Sangha was travelling a 3km journey picking up and dropping off loads on New Year’s Eve before the horrific crash.
The British Airways cabin crew were all based at Heathrow Airport (file photo) (Image: Vagner Vidal/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd)
He told the coroner: “I saw a white car with its lights on, it wasn’t indicating and it did not stop at the give-way point.
I could not do anything to avoid the collision, I turned to the right when I saw the car before I heard a loud bang and then darkness,” he said in a statement. The Heathrow Cargo heavy goods lorry was sent flying, mounting the kerb and onto a tree lined verge before crashing into the Longford river. Mr Sangha was taken to hospital suffering from shock but did not suffer any injuries, the inquest heard.
Paramedics rushed to the scene and discovered the body of Rachel Clark on the roadside. They declared her dead at 12.05am, having been “ejected” through the shattered glass roof of the hybrid car. Pathologist Michael Hall confirmed today that Rachel died from shock and haemorrhage, having suffered lacerations to her liver, spleen and stomach.
The driver and passengers who died worked for BA (Image: Vagner Vidal/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd)
Emergency services cut front seat passenger Joe Finnis from the Toyota, and declared his death around 20 minutes later.
He had suffered shock, haemorrhage and a fractured vertebrae, the inquest heard. Just 10 minutes after the death of his best friend, drink-driver Dominic was cut from his seat belt and declared dead after suffering a blunt head injury, the pathologist said. A fourth female passenger survived the horror crash.
Lauren Feeney, from Renfrewshire, Scotland, was cut from the crumpled car and rushed to hospital after sustaining severe life-threatening injuries. The devastated parents of the three other youngsters had to identify their bodies at the Royal Surrey County Hospital mortuary. In a statement, toxicologist Hassan Kurimbokus explained that Dominic, from Grimsby, was close to double the drink-drive limit which caused “risk taking behaviour, decreased inhibitions, increased confidence and a lack of judgement.”
A coroner today delivered a verdict on the tragedy involving the BA crew (Image: Vagner Vidal/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd)
In addition, he had Type 1 diabetes and at the time of his death, he had high blood sugar levels.
Toxicological tests also revealed that Joe, from Southampton, had mild levels of alcohol in his system but this did not contribute to his death. Rachel, from Twickenham, had not been drinking at all. Police Constable Dominic Gibson, a forensic collision investigator with Surrey Police, explained that the Yaris was speeding at 50mph on the wrong side of 30pmh Long Lane, before it “failed to give way.”
He said: “CCTV showed the Mercedes HGV was correctly positioned and the Toyota Yaris was travelling on the wrong side of the road as it approached the junction. “The Toyota failed to give way and drove into the path of the approaching Mercedes. The car tumbled side over side, tipping onto its glass roof causing a catastrophic crushing before coming to rest upside down, partially on its side.
“The rotation meant that a rear passenger was ejected through the roof opening. “The lorry crossed a double height kerb, into a tree lined verge before crashing into the river embankment where it came to rest.” Sitting at Surrey Coroner’s Court, Simon Wickens concluded the three BA crew-members had died from a road traffic collision.
He said of the driver: “Dominic Fell had a medical history of diabetes, he was over the drink drive limit and he had excessive level of glucose. “He drove the car while impaired by alcohol and hyperglycaemia without giving way and driving on the wrong side of the road into the he path of a lorry. The driver of the Mercedes did not cause or contribute to the collision.”
A fundraising page named BA Angels was set up by fellow cabin crew member Stephen Crook and has raised nearly GBP100,000. It is understood on the day of the tragedy, two of the four crew members had finished work at about 6pm, and the other two had the day off. The coroner concluded the inquest warning of the dangers of driving while impaired, saying: “This incident occurred not long before the start of the new decade.
No doubt driving while impaired played a factor in this tragedy.
“This collision has torn a hole through three families’ lives, friends, work colleagues and the community.
It shows just how devastating driving while impaired can be.”