A young soldier killed in a horror car smash in Bolton – whilst on leave for Christmas – was racing another driver at up to 100mph during a fit of road rage, an inquest heard.
Fusilier Tony Emery, 24, was driving his girlfriend home in his new red VW Golf when he was flashed at and overtaken by a black BMW which was being taken for a test drive along a dual carriageway.
As the driver Luke Stone, 22, drove past it was claimed the pair gesticulated at each other and a race ensued in which the soldier’s Golf tailgated the BMW 8318 at high speed.
Witnesses saw the pair ‘caning it’ along the A666 near Bolton, Greater Manchester before tragedy struck when Stone braked to avoid being caught by a speed camera.
Emery veered into the slow lane to avoid ploughing into the back of the BMW but his V6 car slew out of control. It spun off the road, hit the speed camera, flipped over and a landed in a ditch.
Firefighters cut Emery free from the vehicle but he was pronounced dead at the scene from multiple injuries.
His girlfriend Paige Palmer, 20, an aspiring model who was in the front passenger seat of the Golf was left with a broken neck, hip and pelvis and now requires a wheelchair.
The tragedy occurred on January 6 after Emery, who was stationed in Cyprus with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers had come home to see relatives in Bolton following army training in Canada.
Described his colonel as ‘very highly regarded’ and ‘going places’ he had extended his Christmas leave as he was up for promotion to Lance Corporal and was due to be posted to a base in Tidworth, Wiltshire.
The crash occurred as he was driving Paige home at 11am after staying over with her at his brother’s house.
In statement read to the Bolton hearing Paige said: ‘’Tony and I were just talking and it was then I first saw a black BMW doing about 50mph in the fast lane.”
She said the BMW then drove away as if ‘showing off’ and added: “He kept going fast then slow. He would drive really fast then brake. It happened about five times. I think if I had been driving I would have thought he was teasing us.
“I was thinking it was like an insurance job and him wanting us to go into him. Tony got fed up about it and slowed down and turned to go into the left hand lane.”
But she said as Emery veered into the other lane, the back of the Golf swung out and went into a spin.
She said: “I screamed. Next thing I woke up in hospital. The first thing I said when I came around was ‘is Tony okay and is he in hospital?’
”It was a few days later when I was told Tony had died. They did not want to tell me straight away because of shock. I was devastated. Now if I am not in bed I am in a wheel chair. I have not been given a time scale in relation to recovery.”
Another witness Anthony Boyle who had been driving a Ford Transit Van said: “The BMW undertook me really fast and pulled through the gap between me and the other car. How it got through the gap is beyond me.
“As the BMW went over the bridge it came up behind the Golf. I could see the Golf in front of the BMW and the BMW was right up the Golf’s rear end.
‘’The Golf moved over and went into lane 1 and the BMW sped up and then it got to the side of the Golf. I do not know if they were saying stuff to each other but the BMW sped off and the Golf pulled out behind it. The BMW driver was a lunatic.”
Matthew Ward, who was a passenger in a Mercedes van, said: “I remember Ben the driver saying ‘look at those idiots racing.’ Ben moved out across into the left hand lane quite quickly to get out of the way. They were going between 90 and 100 mph.”
David Snodgrass who was driving a silver Ford Focus said: “I was going the speed limit because I don’t like driving but they were caning it. It was unbelievable. They were more or less touching – bumper to bumper.
“The Golf driver was right up the bumper. Me and my girlfriend said how bad they were both driving and they next minute you just saw dust. I didn’t see the collision. In my head it was like road rage.”
A fourth witness Alan Marsh said: “There was a ‘whoosh whoosh’ sound when they went past. The black car past first followed by the red. I would say they were travelling at 70mph. I would say they were then a cars length apart.
“When they got in front by about 100 yards I could see the brake lights come on the red Golf and he made a manoeuvre into the left lane.
‘’There was a lot dust and it was as though he has gone over, hit something and has propelled up a bit and off the road.”
His wife Shirley said: “I thought I saw the black BMW brake. There was a speed camera as you come around and I thought he braked and then the red car braked and moved over. I thought he was going to undertake.”
The inquest heard a visibly shaken Stone drove on after the crash and returned the car to the Bolton BMW dealership where he told the salesman he had just witnessed a collision.
Shortly afterwards he was taken out for another test drive along the same stretch of road in the same vehicle where he saw emergency services at the scene.
As the salesman drove past Stone, who was in the passenger seat put his head his hands and told him: ‘‘Oh my god, I hope he is alright.”
Stone was later arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving but was not charged due to lack of evidence.
He denied racing and teasing Emery in the moments before the crash and told the hearing: “The VW was in the outside lane driving quite slowly doing about 50-60mph. I went behind him for a while – not tailgating but indicating for him to move over.
‘’From what I remember he straddled the middle, pulled back out and in again.”
He said he flashed the headlights at Emery to move across but added: “He gestured slightly. I remember the windows being transparent. I remember seeing him through the mirror – sign with his hand from what I can remember.
‘’As I drove past, we looked at each other. I just put my hands on my head as if saying what is he doing. But he looked quite angry and was swearing and asking me to pull over and stuff.
‘’Sometime after I looked in my rear view mirror and noticed he was right behind me. I tried to ignore him as I knew I was coming off to BMW garage and thought last thing I wanted was for him to follow me back there.
“I remember thinking I needed to slow down for the speed camera. I remember passing through and looking at the camera to see if it had flashed and just seeing something veer off the road. It took a while to register what had happened.”
PC David Dale, a forensic collision reconstruction officers said: “Both vehicles were travelling in the offside lane and in excess of the 50mph speed limit before the drivers braked.”
He said the cause of collision was a loss of control on the Golf ‘induced by harsh braking and steering.’
Recording a narrative verdict Coroner Alan Walsh said: “Tony was on the threshold of a long and distinguished career and for him to die at the age of 24 is unimaginable and difficult to comprehend.’’
Story via Cavendish Press.
Image courtesy of the essextech, with thanks.