A drink-driver had been travelling in excess of 115mph in a 30mph limit through a Bradford village before he lost control and crashed, killing himself and his two passengers, an inquest heard.
In the hours before the late-night tragedy, married Adam Ruthven, 27, had been out playing pool and talking to friends “buzzing” about the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution he had just bought.
The hearing in Bradford was told yesterday how the high-powered car in which serving soldier Daniel Hague, 32, and Jade Best, 19, were travelling smashed sideways into a hairdressing salon in Thornton on September 16 last year after he lost control at enormous speed.
Mr Ruthven, of Longhouse Drive, Denholme, Lance Corporal Hague, of Hill Top Road, Thornton, and Miss Best, of Clapham Street, Denholme, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Some witnesses told the inquest earlier that night Mr Ruthven had made a number of journeys between Denholme and Thornton.
Collin Wood said he recognised the engine noise passing his house and knew without seeing the car that it was “the lad who drives dangerously and quickly around the village”.
Darren Rowntree, who was a passenger in another car, described the Mitsubishi “flying past” him so fast it made the car he was in feel stationary.
And Elliott Austin described seeing Mr Ruthven's car “bouncing” along Thornton Road because of its sheer speed.
A former work colleague at the Pizza Delight takeaway in Thornton had also urged Mr Ruthven to take his car home that evening because of the manner of his driving and he was worried he would get hurt.
Another friend of Mr Ruthven's, Anthony Wright, described how at about 11pm he had been in the takeaway when he heard a loud noise and knew it was Mr Ruthven’s car.
He then saw him lose control and ran after the car as it spun and ploughed sideways into the hairdresser’s shop at the junction with Kipping Lane, making a sound like an explosion as it hit.
At some point during the evening Mr Ruthven had picked up Lance Cpl Hague, who had been on compassionate leave from his regiment to see his desperately-ill mum, and Miss Best.
The inquest was told there was no firm evidence to prove any of them had been wearing seatbelts.
CCTV examined by police along the Mitsubishi’s route showed a car travelling towards Mr Ruthven which had just turned right appropriately and safely into First Street and that he had swerved to the other side of the road to miss it.
That driver had done nothing wrong and could not have realised the high speed the other car was travelling at, said collision investigator Keith Raynor.
The CCTV footage from nearby businesses also showed the Mitsubishi had travelled a distance of 310 metres in fewer than eight seconds, meaning speeds of up to 115mph.
Recording verdicts that all three had died as a result of a road traffic collision, Assistant Coroner Tim Ratcliffe described the car’s speed as “unbelievable” and noted that could well have been higher as he approached the village.
Mr Ruthven, who had the equivalent of four pints of beer in his system, had lost control, possibly with a panic-type reaction, and the car slid the last 55 metres sideways at a speed of about 60mph before embedding itself into the building with a force that caused structural damage.
A crowd of people quickly gathered round the car and managed to pull Mr Ruthven out to try to revive him. No-one could get to Lance Cpl Hague and no-one initially knew Miss Best was in the back seat until a paramedic checked the door and found her laid across the seat with no pulse and not breathing.
While firefighters battled to free Lance Cpl Hague, who had still been breathing, the paramedic worked on Mr Ruthven but his head injury was so severe he was pronounced dead. A total of 25 minutes was spent trying to revive Lance Cpl Hague before he too died from head injuries.
Miss Best’s mother, Karen, left the inquest in tears as details of her daughter were given and one of Mr Ruthven’s family sobbed at the evidence.
Post-mortem examinations showed no-one in the car had taken any kind of drugs in the run-up to the incident.
Lance Cpl Hague had drunk about four pints of beer and Miss Best had no alcohol in her system.
Although the road had been wet that night, it was defect free and the area was suitably lit, the inquest heard.
Summing up Mr Ratcliffe said Mr Ruthven was proud of his vehicles and he looked after them. He also knew the area well and would have been aware of the speed limits.
He added: “What’s clear to me is Adam’s vehicle was travelling at dangerously high speed as it approached Thornton village. It was at a minimum of 115mph when it reached the Great Northern Pub, the impact speed was at 30mph to 40mph and the car had slid way down the road at about 60mph to 70mph.
“It’s reasonable to conclude the Mitsubishi altered its course to the off-side of the road to avoid what might have been the other car and then moved back where given the speed of the vehicle things went wrong.
“Over-correction of the driver’s reaction in an already unstable car became terminally unstable at that point.
“I accept the Mitsubishi having become uncontrollable turned round until the physical barrier of the shop stopped it at great force and it was that force which was causative of the deaths of the occupants of the car.
“I don’t consider wearing seat belts would have made any difference to the outcome.
“One thing that was contributory was the alcohol level of the driver. It was considerably in excess of the legal drink limit and in terms of the vehicle speed, it was excessive in transgression.
“To drive this kind of vehicle, in this location at a speed at times of more than three times the limit was both dangerous and reckless. Sadly as a result of that on the part of the driver, three people needlessly lost their lives.”