A driver may have been texting his girlfriend shortly before an horrendous fatal head-on smash on the A21 an inquest heard this week.
A police accident investigation officer described the collision as one of the worst he had seen saying: “The damage was catastrophic.”
He had been using a mobile phone, texting and receiving texts before the collisionAssistant Coroner Catharine Palmer
The accident took place last September when a van collided head-on with a heavy lorry close to the Marley Lane junction near Sedlescombe after drifting into the wrong lane.
Scott Wickens. 27, from Tonbridge, Kent, died instantly in the crash, while lorry driver Graham Taylor, from Kent, suffered serious injuries.
The crash happened at around 1.17pm on September 19 2014.
Police found an i-Phone in the van which was on a Whatsapp text page and showed an exchange of messages between Mr Wickens and his Romanian girlfriend Ioana Crisan.
Assistant Coroner Catharine Palmer said: “I find that he had been using a mobile phone, texting and receiving texts before the collision but I am satisfied the phone was in a holder at the time of impact. I cannot say he was using the phone at the time of impact.”
Mervyn Savoury, The driver of a car that had been behind the van from John’s Cross, said the van driver had seemed distracted. “He was all over the road, either to the kerb or white line. He was driving in a very erratic way. I thought he had either been drinking or was not well. This went on for three to four miles.”
Witness Simon Spencer said: “The van appeared to drift across the central reservation. I saw the cab had been completely ripped from the van. I was in a state of shock.”
Driver Liam McAvoy, who was following the lorry, said: “The van crossed into the path of the oncoming lorry, bounced up into the air and swung around. There was lots of debris.”
Graham Taylor, the driver of the seven and a half ton Leyland lorry, said: “I saw the van drifting and cross the white line. It was a second before the impact happened. It just hit me.”
The door of the lorry was ripped off and the windscreen smashed. The impact damaged the axles of the lorry.
Police accident investigation offer PC Andy Slark said: “There was no indication of the van braking.
“Mr Taylor could not have taken any action to avoid the collision. He appears to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time..
“The van received severe frontal damage. It was catastrophic damage.”
The Assistant Coroner asked PC Slark: “We know there were text messages going back and forth shortly before impact. Could just glancing at that phone have caused it?”
PC Slark replied: “Yes.”
The conclusion was death was caused by a road traffic accident.