Driver was texting while doing 80mph on A11 at Besthorpe when he collided with a horsebox
A van driver was texting while driving on the A11 at 80mph at around the time that he collided with a horsebox and died, an inquest heard.
The inquest was told there was a “huge impact” when the van driven by Jeremy Middleton hit the horsebox at Besthorpe, near Attleborough.
After the hearing, a police road safety expert said Mr Middleton had done two of the “fatal four” things that caused accidents - excessive speed and distraction (using a mobile phone).
The family of Mr Middleton, who ran his Adventure Safety Training business and trained many people to enjoy outdoor activities, said the 35-year-old was an “inspirational man”.
Yesterday’s inquest heard Mr Middleton, of Old Norwich Road, Horsham St Faith, was driving a Citroen van on the Norwich-bound carriageway when the crash happened at about 3.35pm on Sunday, June 30 last year.
The van, driven by Mr Middleton for Majestic Wines, was restricted by classification to a speed limit of 60mph.
The inquest heard that the 7.5-tonne Renault horsebox driven by Scott Adcock with two horses inside was about 70m along the dual carriageway in the inside lane when the collision occurred.
PC Paul Cant, collision investigator, said the crash occurred near Attleborough Services petrol station, which Mr Adcock had just exited from.
He added that a text message was sent from Mr Middleton’s mobile phone at 3.36pm, which he said was “at or immediately prior” to the crash.
He estimated the speed of the van at collision at about 80-85mph.
He said: “Mr Middleton was not braking at impact. The van was almost certainly out of Mr Adcock’s view when he pulled out from the service area.
“Mr Adcock accelerated away in a safe manner.
“The horsebox was there to be seen by the van driver, who had the time and distance to avoid it. Why Mr Middleton failed to avoid it is unknown. The possible explanation is that his attention was on his mobile phone.”
Witness Ian Shann, who was travelling in his car from Thetford to Norwich, said: “There was a huge impact and debris flew everywhere. The van driver did not brake. He could have moved to the outside lane which was clear.”
Mr Adcock was returning to his home in Martham from a farm in Larling after entering the horses in a show jumping competition.
His wife was beside him and two friends were in the back of the vehicle.
He said: “There is no slip road from that garage onto the A11. You are on a slope and I was going very slowly, as if something was coming.
“As I pulled out I straightened up and saw a MR2 car overtake me, then just a bang. I was hit with horrendous force from behind. I was accelerating away at about 30mph.”
The assistant coroner for Norfolk, Yvonne Blake concluded that Mr Middleton died as a result of multiple injuries sustained in a road traffic collision.
After the inquest, Insp Chris Brooks, from Norfolk and Suffolk’s road policing and firearms operations unit, said: “The fatal four behaviours are excessive speed, no seatbelt use, excess alcohol (drink driving) and distraction (using a mobile phone). The crash at Besthorpe featured two of the fatal four as the driver was travelling at excessive speed and using his phone while driving.
“We would urge all drivers to adhere to the speed limits and ignore the phone while driving.”
Following the accident, Mr Middleton’s family described him as an “inspirational man” who was “much admired and trusted by all those whose lives he touched”.
The former Gresham’s School pupil, affectionately known as Jez, had “limitless enthusiasm” for outdoor pursuits, the family said.
His wife Steph, whom he met in 2001 and married in 2006, said: “I met Jez when we were both working for Norfolk Youth and Community Services and we had 12 wonderful years together.
“It is so sad and tragic that his life has been snatched away far too soon. He had so much more he wanted to give, do and see.”
Mr Middleton loved taking part in activities like canoeing, kayaking, sailing, abseiling, hill walking and archery and volunteered in his spare time, taking part in teaching and going on field trips with the Norwich-based Eagle Canoe Club, and the 8th Sea Scouts in the city.
Mr Middleton, who was also an active member of the Lowland Search and Rescue Team, started teaching people in outdoor activities in 1998 while at the Waveney Valley Canoe Club, where he was coach.
By the summer of 1999 he went onto work for the Norfolk Youth and Community Service at the Water Activities centre where he taught kayaking and canoeing.