Wrong-way driver was four times drink-drive limit

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A man drove the wrong way down a dual carriageway while he was nearly four times the drink-drive limit, an inquest heard today.

Gareth Edwards, 57, of Yr Hafan, Bala, Gwynedd, died of multiple injuries after his Mitsubishi pick-up truck crashed headlong into a lorry on the A14 near Rothwell, Northamptonshire in the early hours of 12 November.



Today an inquest into his death at Kettering Magistrates Court heard Mr Edwards told friends he was having relationship trouble with his wife of 40 years.



Mr Edwards, a father of two, who was born and bred in Bala, was working in Northamptonshire as a dumper truck driver for Wales-based civil engineering company Jones Bros.



He and work colleagues were staying in caravans and would regularly drink together in the evening, the inquest heard.



On 11 November, Mr Edwards drank about eight or nine pints with his friends then left the pub in his pick-up.



Several witnesses saw him driving the wrong way on the eastbound carriageway of the A14 before hitting a lorry at about 1am.



A post-mortem found Mr Edwards suffered multiple broken bones, including facial bones and his skull, as well as injuries to his internal organs.



His alcohol level was found to be nearly four times the limit for driving, the inquest heard.



In a statement read to the inquest Rhonn Wyn Thomas, from Cwmonnen, Llanuwchllyn, Bala, who also worked for Jones Bros, said Mr Edwards' unhappiness at his marriage problems came out when he was drinking.



"He was very down about it and saying he didn't expect it to happen with his wife of 40 years," he said.



"He tended to keep his thoughts to himself, but it would come out in his drink."



The court heard a week before the accident, Mr Thomas took Mr Edwards' car keys off him after he threatened to drive home from the pub despite being extremely drunk.



On 11 November, the men had been "rained off" work and spent the afternoon in the pub, Mr Thomas said. He said Mr Edwards insisted on driving home in his car at the end of the evening.



The inquest heard several witnesses' statements describing the pick-up truck driving the wrong way that night.



John Almond, from Desborough, Northants, saw the Mitsubishi travelling the wrong way round a roundabout.



Gary Congerton, travelling home to Geddington, near Kettering, saw the Mitsubishi driving towards him on the eastbound carriageway.



He said: "I pulled over into lane one and slowed to about 30 or 40mph. I was flashing my headlights and beeping my horn, the vehicle kept coming towards me, it was in lane two."



Lorry driver Henryk Krudos was overtaking another lorry when he spotted a flash.



"I realised that it was a car driving the wrong way straight into me," he said.



"I braked once, moved right as close to the barriers as I could. The car driving into me had no lights on.



"I carried on braking but the car hit my left side. It was two seconds, there was nothing I could have done to avoid that accident."



A statement from Mr Edwards' wife Brenda, who was at today's inquest, said her husband would be "missed by all of us dearly".



She said although he only passed his driving test in May 1997 he had been driving without a licence for many years, but she said he was not confident and she did not feel comfortable as a passenger.



Collision investigator Pc Mark Marrocco, who investigated the scene after the crash, told the inquest: "The collision occurred either due to the effects of the large amount of alcohol consumed by Mr Edwards or it was a deliberate action due to some severe emotional or mental upset."



Recording a verdict of accidental death, Northamptonshire coroner Anne Pember said: "Sadly the gentleman drove when he was grossly intoxicated by alcohol and drove the wrong way for a considerable distance.



"He was not involved in any collision until he drove headlong into the vehicle driven by Mr Krudos and there was nothing that man could have done to avoid the collision."