Greg Matthews, 20, sent text message seconds before fatal Instow crash
A 20-year-old who died in a fatal car crash last year sent a text message to a friend a matter of seconds before colliding with a bridge wall, an inquest has heard.
Gregory Matthews, from Bickington, was travelling home from a late night shift at Appledore shipyard on March 29 when the collision occurred.
He was driving on the B3233 when he tried to navigate a right hand bend but lost control of his blue MG car which crashed into the wall and flipped on to its roof just before 2am.
At an inquest on Friday, evidence was heard from a number of people including Greg's friend who had given a statement saying she had been texting Greg in the early hours of that morning.
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She said she had seen Greg on a night out the week before but did not have his number so did not know who was texting her to begin with.
But once she knew it was Greg they exchanged a number of texts including the final one which was a picture message from the night they were both out. She did not reply to this message.
The last text she had received from Greg had been sent at 1.53am and 11 seconds. CCTV footage of part of the road was reviewed which showed Greg's car crashed at 1.53am and 33 seconds.
PC Darren Philp, a forensic collision investigator who carried out an assessment of the scene after the crash, also gave evidence.
After surveying the tyre marks found at the scene, he concluded Greg's car was travelling at a minimum speed of 52 miles per hour before it crashed.
PC Philp stated it should have been possible to navigate the bend while travelling at that speed, but that Greg's car could have been driving faster.
A statement was also read out at the inquest from Geoffrey Chapman, a forensic vehicle investigator, who found the rear offside tyre of the MG car was suffering from a slow puncture.
However PC Philp concluded in his evidence this would not likely have contributed to the accident as most of the car's weight would have been to the nearside while going around the right hand bend.
He went on to say the car was travelling at an inappropriate speed which was a "serious aggravating factor" in the collision.
He added: "Although it cannot be proven if he was holding his mobile phone it may have contributed to a distraction and subsequent loss of control."
After all evidence was heard, coroner Dr John Tomalin gave a verdict of accidental death. In an earlier post mortem report it was heard Greg died from severe
Dr Tomalin said in his conclusion: "On March 29 he clocked out at 1.45am.
That was the night of the collision. At about 2am Greg sent a text message to a friend who he knew.
"The phone logs taken show the final text was at 1.53am and 11 seconds.
This appears to coincide with Greg's car appearing on CCTV at Zeta Berth on his journey home from work just before the collision.
"We have heard from the vehicle examiner there were no mechanical defects although there were problems with the tyres. PC Philp does not think this led an active role in the collision.
"However, the speed of the car has been a factor and although the speed had not exceeded what he called the critical speed for the bend, his view was
it was an inappropriate speed.
"This in his opinion led to some form of over steering which Greg tried to correct but over-reacted therefore losing control of the car.
"All these factors represent an unfortunate set of circumstances which led to the death of a young man just starting out in his life. Clearly using a mobile phone while driving is an offence and against the law and something which could cause considerable distraction to the driver.
"There is no evidence of any third party involvement. I am of the view the correct verdict is one of accidental death and I believe this was as a result of some unintended act or omission on Greg's part.
Dr Tomalin finished by saying: "I am so sorry you have had to go through this."