Teenager probably died after his foot got stuck under pedal
12:48pm Friday 19th October 2012 in News
A PROMISING young agricultural engineer probably died because his boot got caught under the pedals of his classic Mini, an inquest heard.
James Griffiths, 18, had experienced problems with his work boot sticking under the pedals before and had vowed to wear trainers when he drove in future.
But on the day of his death he was wearing the wide boots again to drive - with tragic consequences, the Gloucester inquest was told.
James had bought the 1980 car when he was just 13, and completely restored it with the help of his father.
But as he was on his way to college on a damp winter morning near his home, he drove straight across a major road without slowing down and collided with another car.
He was not wearing a seatbelt at the time and may have taken it off to try and free his trapped foot, Gloucestershire Deputy Coroner David Dooley heard.
James, of Victory Row, Coates, was a student at Lackham College, near Chippenham in Wiltshire.
He had been intending to start restoring a derelict classic tractor at the time of his death, and as a tribute, his fellow students and the staff of the college carried out the work in his memory, and presented the finished vehicle to his parents Julie and Colin.
His father said that James had told him his work boot had become stuck under the pedals of his car a few months before his death, and he had decided that he would always wear trainers to drive in future.
At Gloucester Coroners Court, Mr Dooley said: "Why then did he choose to wear his workboots that morning?
"He may have put them on without thinking or it may have been a conscious decision that day because he needed them later."
Neighbour Valerie Robbins told the inquest she was walking her dog on the morning of December 12 2011 and saw James start for college.
"He was a good driver and didn’t normally go over the speed limit, unlike some others in the village. I never saw him drive in an irresponsible manner."
The other driver involved in the accident, which happened at the junction of the lane from Coates village and the main A433 Cirencester to Tetbury Road, was Janet Burton.
She told the coroner that she had 30 years driving experience, and drove about 30,000 miles a year.
That morning she was heading towards Tetbury and then on to Bristol at about 7.25am and travelling at about 50 miles an hour. The speed limit was 60.
"I had lights on but it was just getting light. I was approaching a cross roads and the next thing I knew a car came from the right directly in front of me," she said.
"I hit it square on almost centrally and my car went into the ditch on the left."
Witness Mark Payne was travelling behind Mrs Burton and he saw the white Mini come from the Coates direction straight out into her path.
"Both cars flew into the air," he said, "and the Mini landed and went into the ditch on the left."
He stopped and went to the Mini and the driver was hanging out of the rear window. He thought he was dead.
He and other witnesses forced the door of Mrs Burton’s car open and helped her out.
Kevin Davies was driving in the opposite direction, and also saw the impact. He said the Mini had crossed over the white line into the Tetbury bound lane before the impact.
Neither of the cars was found to have any defects before the accident, and James’ mother Julie said his Mini was his pride and joy, and was in perfect condition.
"He would wash it every night," she said.
As part of his college course, he had spent a year at Lister Wilder engineering in Cirencester and they had offered him a full-time job when the course was finished, she said.
Accident investigator PC Dave Holland said he had measured the gap between the pedals of the Mini and the width of James’ boots.
"It was quite possible for the boot to have become stuck under the pedals and for him to have taken his seatbelt off to try and free it. He was a big man and it was a very small car," he said "It was also possible for the boot to be caught under the brake but still be on the accelerator."
Summing up, Mr Dooley said however the impact had come about, each of the possibilities came to the same verdict of accident.