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Tragedy of posties killed in ‘airborne’ 70mph crash

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: January 23, 2014

Charlie Cooper

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TWO Swadlincote postmen died after a car became “airborne” on a bumpy road before crashing into trees and hedges.

Driver Stephen O’Brien, 51, and passenger Charlie Cooper, 49, were travelling along Willesley Woodside, near Ashby, when Mr O’Brien lost control of the vehicle on July 24.

An inquest was told the vehicle ended up on its roof after falling onto a railway line.

Witness Stuart Wood told the inquest: “I didn’t notice the car until I went round the bend and it was right behind me.

“It overtook me safely and returned to the correct side of the road and then 200 yards in front of me the car appeared to get airborne and, when it came back down, the front was pointing towards the hedge on the left.

“At that point it swerved right and went off the road on the other side.

“The road has ripples in it – it’s a bit undulating – but it’s a straight road.”

Mr Wood was asked by Howard Davies, a lawyer representing Mr Cooper’s family, of Middle Close, whether he could estimate the car’s speed.

He said the vehicle must have been travelling at almost 70mph. The limit is 60mph.

Mr Wood called 999 but said he could not immediately see the Nissan 350Z, which had gone through a hedge, smashed through a fence and travelled through the air, knocking down trees before hitting the railway below.

The inquest heard that both men, who did postal rounds in Ashby but lived in Swadlincote, were wearing seatbelts.

Collision investigator Rachel Marston used an identical car to see how well it handled the road at high speed. The test found that when driven in a straight line, the car remained on the road at any speed.

She said speed, the road surface and the fact the Nissan had just overtaken Mr Wood’s vehicle were all factors in the accident.

Coroner Carolyn Hull recorded a verdict that both men “died as a result of a road traffic collision”. She told their families: “I hope we’ve been able to give you some answers to the questions you came to court with today.”

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