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Speeding van driver was TEXTING at 85mph moments before he smashed into a horsebox and was killed

17 January 2014

  • Jeremy Middleton died following crash in Norfolk in June last year:
  • Police say he sent text 'at or immediately prior' to fatal accident:
  • Investigator estimated he was driving at 80-85mph at time of collision:
  • Following the accident, Mr Middleton was described by his family as an 'inspirational man' who was 'much admired and trusted':

A van driver who died after he crashed into a horsebox at speeds of up to 85mph had been texting moments before the smash, an inquest heard.

Jeremy Middleton died after the van he was driving collided with the horsebox at Besthorpe, near Attleborough, Norfolk.

A police road safety expert last night said he had committed two of the 'fatal four' sins that caused accidents - excessive speed and distraction.

Mr Middleton, of Horsham St Faith, Norfolk, was driving a Citroen van on the Norwich-bound carriageway of the busy A11 when the crash happened at about 3.35pm on Sunday, June 30 last year.

The 7.5-tonne Renault horsebox, which was driven by Scott Adcock and had two horses inside, was about 70m along the dual carriageway in the inside lane when the crash happened.

PC Paul Cant, collision investigator, said the smash occurred near Attleborough Services petrol station, which Mr Adcock had just left.

He said Mr Middleton sent a text from his mobile at 3.36pm, which was 'at or immediately prior' to the deadly accident.

PC Cant estimated the married man's speed at 80-85mph when he collided.

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 driving 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 his horses in a showjumping competition.

His wife was beside him and two friends were in the back of the vehicle.

Mr Adcock told the inquest: '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 an 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 after he suffered multiple injuries sustained in a road traffic collision.

After the inquest, Insp Chris Brooks, of 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 said he was an 'inspirational man' who was 'much admired and trusted by all those whose lives he touched'.

He had trained thousands of people to enjoy the great outdoors through his Adventure Safety Training busines.

His wife Steph, who 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.

He volunteered in his spare time, taking part in teaching and going on field trips with Norwich-based Eagle Canoe Club and 8th Sea Scouts.

Mr Middleton, also an active member of the Lowland Search and Rescue Team, started teaching people in outdoor activities in 1998 while at Waveney Valley Canoe Club, where he was coach.

He also worked for Norfolk Youth and Community Service at the Water Activities centre where he taught kayaking and canoeing.


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