31.05.2005 Diaspora News

Death crash driver 'twice drink limit'

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A soldier who was nearly twice the legal drink drive limit and on the wrong side of the road crashed head on into a van killing himself and two other people, an inquest heard.

Michael and Teresa Whittemore, aged 55 and 54 respectively, of Emerson Valley, died in their blazing van after Craftsman Evans Opoku Barimah's red BMW ploughed into their Ford Transit van, sending it up in the air and flipping it on its side.

Witnesses told the court how Ghana born Mr Barimah, aged 26, stayed in the outside lane as he drove his red BMW on a long southbound stretch of the single carriageway A421 at about 8pm on January 15 this year.

One of them, Andrew Bee, said the BMW was passing him when he saw the van being driven by Mr Whittemore, coming around a corner towards them.

"I flashed and slowed down to let him in, but he didn't do anything," he said. Another witness confirmed Mr Barimah had not braked.

After the collision the van caught fire, with Mr and Mrs Whittemore trapped inside – their young grandson, Luke Marr, was on fire when he was pulled from the wreck by Mable Courtney, of Westminster Drive, Bletchley.

He was taken to Milton Keynes General and later transferred to Stoke Mandeville. Others tried in vain to help Mr and Mrs Whittemore who were conscious but trapped.

"We went to the van to try and pull the grandparents out, but they were trapped, we couldn't help them," said Mr Bee.

Three passengers in the BMW were seriously injured in the horror smash and taken to Milton Keynes Hospital – all survived.

Consultant pathologist Dr Hoyer, who carried out the post mortems, said Mr and Mrs Whittemore suffered third degree burns all over but died of smoke inhalation.

He said Mr Barimah suffered multiple injuries, the most serious of which was a ruptured aorta, and stood no chance of survival.

Tests showed he had 150 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood – the legal limit is 80.

Coroner Rodney Corner, said alcohol was a major factor in the deaths. "The cause of this accident was gross incompetence by Mr Barimah and part of that is because he was driving when he shouldn't have been – he was well over the limit.

"It was a pattern of driving as shocking as any I've heard in court as a coroner."

Mr Corner recorded a verdict of accidental death.

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