Three British Airways cabin crew were killed in a New Year’s eve crash when the driver, who was double the drink-drive limit, failed to stop at a crossroads, an inquest heard.
A coroner was told how the three friends were celebrating the arrival of the New Year when the collision took place on Bedfont Road, Stanwell, Surrey.
Rachel Clark, 20, had completed her training only weeks before she died with fellow cabin crew members Joe Finnis, 25, and Dominic Fell, 23, near Heathrow Airport.
A fourth person in the Toyota Yaris, aged 25, was severely injured but recovered in hospital.
Sitting at Surrey Coroner’s Court, coroner Simon Wickens concluded the three BA cabin crew members had died from a road traffic collision.
Toxicologist Hassan Kurimbokus had explained that Mr Fell, from Grimsby, was close to double the drink-drive limit which caused ‘risk taking behaviour, decreased inhibitions, increased confidence and a lack of judgement.’
He also had Type 1 diabetes and at the time of his death had high levels of blood sugar.
Rachel Clark, 20, died in the collision near London Heathrow Airport at the start of the year
Joe Finnis, 25, has also been named in tributes after he was killed in the car crash in Surrey
Tributes for Dominic Fell (above), 23, included ‘keep flying high’ after he was named as a victim
The triple death happened minutes before New Year’s Day as Mr Fell and best friend Mr Finnis had left a party to pick up colleagues.
The coroner heard that the third victim, Ms Clark – who was not wearing her seatbelt – was ejected through the glass sunroof of the white Toyota Yaris and was found four metres from the wrecked car on Bedfont Road.
Following the tragedy, almost £100,000 was raised after a British Airways cabin crew member set up a fundraising page.
In a statement, fellow cabin crew member and host of the New Year party, Lucy Pemberton, recalled her final moments with the boys.
She told the inquest: ‘On New Year’s Eve my housemates arranged to have a party to see in the new year with friends. Two people coming were Dom Fell and Joe Finnis who were both BA staff.
Miss Clark (above) was praised by friends as a ‘kind, beautiful and intelligent person’
Miss Clark, pictured in uniform while in Lisbon, previously worked for the Harlequins rugby union team, and attended Gumley House Convent School in Hounslow and Kingston College
‘Dom and Joe were best friends, they were inseparable. Dom used insulin and used a machine which he had been charging in my bedroom. We were getting ready for the party and I saw Dom with a bottle of Budweiser but he was staying over so I didn’t think anything of it.
‘At 11.15pm, I caught the boys in the hall trying to sneak out. I asked them where they were going and they said they were going to pick up some girls and they would be back before the New Year rang in.’
Lucy explained that the boys were using Google maps and were using it to walk the route, before saying ‘sweet, it’s five minutes away.’
‘They both went out the front door – that was the last time I saw my friend Dom,’ Lucy added.
Lorry driver Inderjit Sangha was travelling a 3km journey picking up and dropping off loads on New Year’s Eve before the horrific crash.
He told the coroner: ‘I saw a white car with its lights on, it wasn’t indicating and it did not stop at the give-way point. I could not do anything to avoid the collision, I turned to the right when I saw the car before I heard a loud bang and then darkness.’
The Heathrow Cargo heavy goods lorry was sent flying, mounting the kerb and onto a tree lined verge before crashing into the Longford river. Mr Sangha was taken to hospital suffering from shock but did not suffer any injuries, the inquest heard.
The crash happened when the white Toyota Yaris the cabin crew were travelling in collided with a white Mercedes HGV at a junction in Stanwell, Surrey, at 11.39pm on New Year’s Eve
Paramedics rushed to Bedfont Road and discovered the body of Rachel Clark four metres from the Toyota Yaris, on the roadside. They declared her dead at 12.05am, having been ‘ejected’ through the shattered glass roof of the hybrid car.
Pathologist Michael Hall confirmed today that Rachel died from shock and haemorrhage, having suffered lacerations to her liver, spleen and stomach.
Having received the 999 call at 11.39pm, emergency services cut front seat passenger Joe Finnis from the Toyota, tragically declaring his death at 12.27am having suffered shock, haemorrhage and a fractured vertebrae, an inquest heard.
Just 10 minutes after the death of his best friend, driver Mr Fell was cut from his seat belt and declared dead having suffered a blunt head injury, the pathologist confirmed.
A fourth female passenger survived the horror crash. Lauren Feeney, from Renfrewshire, Scotland, was cut from the crumpled car and rushed to hospital after sustaining severe life-threatening injuries.
The devastated parents of the three youngsters had to identify their bodies at the Royal Surrey County Hospital mortuary following the fatal collision.
The driver of the lorry was unharmed and taken to hospital as a precaution following the crash
Toxicological tests also revealed that Mr Finnis, from Southampton, had mild levels of alcohol in his system but this did not contribute to his death, and 20-year-old Ms Clark, from Twickenham, had not been drinking at all.
Police Constable Dominic Gibson, a forensic collision investigator with Surrey Police, explained that the automatic Toyota Yaris was speeding at 50mph on the wrong side of 30pmh Long Lane, before it ‘failed to give way.’
He said: ‘CCTV showed the Mercedes HGV was correctly positioned and the Toyota Yaris was travelling on the wrong side of the road as it approached the junction.
‘The Toyota failed to give way and drove into the path of the approaching Mercedes. The car tumbled side over side, tipping onto its glass roof causing a catastrophic crushing before coming to rest upside down, partially on its side.
‘The rotation meant that a rear passenger was ejected through the roof opening.
‘The lorry crossed a double height kerb, into a tree lined verge before crashing into the river embankment where it came to rest.’
A map shows where the crash happened in Stanwell, near Heathrow, and just outside London
Sitting at Surrey Coroner’s Court, Simon Wickens concluded the three British Airways cabin crew members had tragically died from a road traffic collision.
‘At 11.39pm on December 31 2019, Dominic Fell was driving his Toyota Yaris on Long Lane, Stanwell, Surrey., and he was approaching Bedfont Road. In his car was Joseph Finnis and Rachel Clark.
‘At the same time, Mr Inderjit Sangha (corr) was driving a Mercedes articulated lorry. In the Toyota, both front seat occupants were wearing their seat belts, neither of the back seat passengers were wearing their seat belts.
‘CCTV showed that the Toyota was travelling at 50mph as it approached the junction, veering on the opposite side of the road. At the junction, there is a requirement to give way to traffic but the Toyota attempted to turn right into Bedfont Road – moving into the path of the oncoming lorry.
‘Dominic Fell had a medical history of diabetes, he was over the drink drive limit and he had excessive level of glucose. He drove the car while impaired by alcohol and hyperglycaemia without giving way and driving on the wrong side of the road into the he path of a lorry. The driver of the Mercedes did not cause or contribute to the collision,’ he said.
A fundraising page named BA Angels was set up by fellow cabin crew member Stephen Crook and has raised £98,735 so far.
It is understood two of the four crew members had finished work at about 6pm, and the other two had the day off.’
The coroner concluded the inquest warning of the dangers of driving while impaired, saying: ‘This incident occurred not long before the start of the new decade. No doubt driving while impaired played a factor in this tragedy.
‘This collision has torn a hole through three families’ lives, friends, work colleagues and the community. It shows just how devastating driving while impaired can be.’