Monday 20 November 2017

'He was begging me not to leave him' - Man tells of frantic attempt to rescue friend after horrific crash

(left to right) Arpad Kore, Bartosz Bortniczak, Blake Cairns, Jordanna Goodwin and Megan Storey.
(left to right) Arpad Kore, Bartosz Bortniczak, Blake Cairns, Jordanna Goodwin and Megan Storey.

A young man has told a coroner how he desperately tried to save his friend after a horror car crash in thick fog which left five teenagers dead.

Jonathan Earp was in a car travelling ahead of a Toyota Corolla which collided with a Seat Leon just outside Conisbrough, South Yorkshire, fatally injuring Blake Cairns, 16, Jordanna Goodwin, 16, Megan Storey, 16, Arpad Kore, 18, and Bartosz Bortniczak, 18 in November last year.

Mr Earp told the resumed inquests into the deaths how he went back to the scene to find all the occupants unconscious apart from Kore, who was the only one of the five he knew.

"He was begging me to get him out of the car," he told Doncaster Coroner's Court. "He was screaming out in pain and begging me not to leave him."

Mr Earp said he could not open any of the doors of the mangled car and described how he held his friend's hand until paramedics arrived.

He said he and the driver of the Vauxhall Corsa he was in had met up with five teenagers in the Toyota in the car park of a McDonald's restaurant in the Balby area of Doncaster.

He said the two cars then set off towards Conisbrough in the foggy conditions, intending to drive around the area.

Mr Earp was asked about evidence the court heard from another witness who said he had seen two cars side-by-side at traffic lights before the scene of the accident on the A630.

The witness - Michael Staton - said in a statement read to the court that the cars were revving their engines and "set off like a dragster start".

Mr Staton said: "It was obvious they were racing each other away from the lights." He said he remembered thinking to himself: "That's a recipe for disaster."

But Mr Earp said the Vauxhall and the Toyota were not racing and the two cars were always behind each other and not side-by-side.

He said Ben York, who was driving the Corsa, was a good driver and he noticed he was doing about 60mph shortly before the conditions in the 60mph zone.

Kathryn Grayling, who co-ordinated paramedics at the scene, said: "The conditions on the night were absolutely horrific."

The driver of the Seat, Gary Ward, who was also injured in the crash, said he came across the Toyota suddenly ahead him and it was sideways across the road.

He told the inquest: "It wasn't there one minute and the car was there the next."

Mr Ward confirmed the conditions were very foggy. He said he was travelling to work as a steelworker in Scunthorpe at the time.

In another statement read to the court, Bartosz's mother, Agnieszka Bortniczak, said her son had passed his driving test six months before the crash, which happened in November last year.

Mrs Bortniczak said she did not have any concerns about her son's driving and when he left that evening he was his "usual, cheerful, happy self".

Blake, Jordanna, Arpad and Megan were sixth-formers at Danum Academy in Doncaster and warehouse worker Bartosz was a former pupil.

The inquest continues and is due to conclude on Tuesday.

Crash collision investigator Pc Adrian Burgoyne told the inquest there was no evidence the crash was caused by racing or other reckless behaviour.

He said: "My personal belief is that this collision has occurred not due to any sort of dangerous or reckless act.

"I think it's a minor error of judgment."

He said: "Such a minor mistake as that has led to such tragic circumstances."

The officer said: "The weather conditions were absolutely appalling."

He said it was a "wet, damp, very miserable night" and visibility was at best 100 metres and at worst 50 metres.

Pc Burgoyne said he believes the Toyota ended up in the position it was due to a classic case of "lift-off over-steer".

He said he thinks the driver took his foot off the accelerator and applied the brakes as he negotiated a right-hand bend.

He said this would have caused the vehicle to rotate and skid sideways.

The officer said the Toyota was fitted with an insurance company's "black box" data recorder which showed it was travelling at 73.3 mph 100 metres before the collision.

But he said tests showed the car would have been able to safely take the bend at the speed if the driver had kept his foot on the accelerator.

Pc Burgoyne praised the work of firefighters and paramedics at the scene.

He said: "In 20 years as a police officer - 15 years in the collision investigation department - I have never seen a more concerted effort by emergency services to save lives.

"It was something I have never seen before. It was awesome what was done by ambulance and fire service staff."

Investigator Pc Andy Brown said the driver of the Corsa was arrested after the crash on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. But there was insufficient evidence to mount a prosecution.

He said witnesses had referred to cars racing on the A630 before the collision but it had not been possible to positively identify the vehicles referred to.

Pc Brown said that there had been two other fatal accidents on the same stretch of road in the last decade.

In January 2011 three teenagers, aged 14, 15, and 16, died after the car they were in hit a tree just 100 metres away from this crash and was torn apart.

Doncaster coroner Nicola Mundy asked Pc Brown if he thought reducing the speed limit in the area would be good idea.

He said that moving the transition from 60mph to 40mph another 200 metres further from Conisbrough would be "the quickest, cheapest and easiest thing for the council to do".

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