Widow of innocent man killed by angry drunk driver breaks her silence after inquest
THE widow of an innocent Cheddar father killed in a head-on collision by an angry drunk driver terrorising another car has broken her silence.
Emma Parker, wife of the late Richard Parker who was killed in October last year, has used the internet site Twitter to express her hope that people will stop drink-driving.
Commenting on the day of the verdict from the inquest last week, she said: “So many feelings I felt today.
“Overall, it’s just sadness that I, unfortunately, will not be the last to go through a tragedy like this.
“It might just happen to you – no-one is invincible.
“Slow down and don’t drink-drive – it ruins lives and breaks families apart.”
An inquest in Taunton in front of coroner Michael Rose heard that Mr Parker was killed on October 7 last year when his car was hit by BMW driver Vincent Atkinson, aged 31, also of Cheddar, on the A371 Axbridge bypass just after 3am, after Atkinson harassed and pursued another vehicle.
Atkinson collided head-on with Mr Parker’s car while attempting to overtake the Peugeot he was pursuing at around 70mph in a 40-mile zone.
Two terrified 15-year-old boy passengers in the Peugeot that Atkinson pursued were left crying with fear as he twice overtook at speed, then stopped in the middle of the road, blocking the other car’s way.
The Peugeot driver, Julian Browne, aged 21, of Easton, near Wells, tried desperately to escape by reversing and driving off in the opposite direction but Atkinson pursued him at speeds which Mr Browne estimated as 80 to 100mph.
In written evidence, one of the 15-year -olds said the behaviour was so intimidating: “I honestly thought we were going to die.”
A verdict of “gross criminal negligence which amounted to unlawful killing” was decided as the cause of death for Mr Parker.
A toxicology report showed Atkinson’s blood alcohol level was nearly two-and-a-half times the drink-driving limit and a witness said they had seen Atkinson drinking in a nightclub in Weston-super-Mare earlier that night.
Atkinson, who died at the scene, had Gregory Sumner as a front-seat passenger in his car. Mr Sumner suffered serious brain injuries and is still in hospital.
The first the Peugeot’s young occupants were aware of the BMW was when it drove up very close behind them and flashed its headlights as they travelled at 30mph in a 30mph zone through Banwell, then Atkinson overtook on a bend and began braking before pulling across the road and coming to a halt.
The BMW’s passenger made an obscene gesture at the group, and one of the occupants got out, stumbling and appearing drunk.
Mr Browne turned his car round and tried to find another route home but was followed, overtaken, and blocked again. The trio in the Peugeot were so frightened they did not stop when the crash happened after around 15 minutes of pursuit, but drove home, and told their parents who reported the crash.
Another witness had already reported the crash and emergency vehicles arrived quickly, but both drivers were dead.
The cars caught fire and a van driver and a taxi driver used a fire extinguisher to put out the blaze.
PC Philip Howell said the speedometer on Mr Parker’s car had stopped at 42 miles per hour. The BMW’s speed at impact was assessed at 70mph or a little less.
He was sure that Mr Browne had done nothing to invoke the pursuit.
Mr Rose said: “Increasingly one sees from time to time the inability to control one’s feelings and actions, something now known as road rage.
"It generally doesn’t result in deaths of people but it’s not the first kind I have heard of.
"I fully accept the evidence of Mr Browne and the young boy that they were frightened."
He said road rage can “sometimes be triggered by the fact of feeling that someone has got the better of you, or inconvenienced you or somehow attacked your dignity, and so he was determined to get in front of Mr Browne.”
Mr Rose said Mr Parker’s driving could not be criticised. Mr Parker’s family attended the hearing and his father said: “I am pleased that this has confirmed he did nothing wrong.”