Banned driver's error killed five

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FOUR TEENAGERS and a 12-month-old baby died after the young driver of a high- powered car seemingly lost control and smashed into an oncoming milk lorry on a country road, an inquest was told yesterday.

Stephen Dawson, 19, of Durham City, had never passed a driving test and had been banned for motoring offences.

The smash claimed the lives of Mr Dawson, his best friend Lee Foster, 19, and Mr Foster's 17-year-old fiancee, Jacqueline Rennick, his youngest sister Rebecca Foster, 16, and his son Jake. Such was the force of the smash that the baby was thrown almost 100 feet from the Vauxhall Carlton.

All five victims, who lived in Co Durham, died from severe brain damage and fractured skulls after the crash on the A691 near Witton Gilbert.

Mr Foster died during surgery in Dryburn Hospital but the others were all killed instantly. The car had been bought by Mr Foster only days before the fatal crash.

The car came over a rise on the road seemingly out of control, clipped a kerb and veered across the road into the path of the milk lorry where it was hit full on the passenger side. The lorry travelled a short distance with the car crushed underneath it. Michael Thorburn, 45,the lorry driver, of Morpeth, Northumberland, escaped unscathed.

Andrew Tweddle, West Durham coroner, recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Mr Tweddle said: "It's quite likely that Mr Dawson lost control of the car possibly as a result of inexperience, excessive speed or a combination of both.

"There are times when we all drive inappropriately for whatever reason, and for the most part we get away with it, but in this case the driver and passengers paid the ultimate price."