A “golden boy”, “who had it all”, was how a mother paid tribute to her only son who was almost three times over the legal drink-drive limit when he was killed in a car crash last October.
Ribble Valley Coroner’s Court heard Oliver Jones (20), a market trader from Settle, was upset his former girlfriend had decided to go night clubbing with his friend.
He had 225mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, almost three times over the legal drink-drive limit. plus trace elements of cocaine, in his system when he lost control of his Citroen Saxo on a bend on the A59 Clitheroe Road, Sawley, in the early hours of Sunday, October 26th.
Oliver’s car left the road and hit a stone marker recognising the historic county boundary and the stone wall of Smithies Bridge around 4-50am. He suffered multiple injuries and would have died instantaneously.
Oliver had been due to share a room with his former girlfriend, Gabriella Pashley, after they attended the evening reception of a friend’s wedding at the Dunkenhalgh Hotel, Clayton-le-Moors, the previous evening.
However, in the early hours, Gabriella and Oliver’s friend, Wade Halstead, best man at the wedding, decided to go nightclubbing in Accrington, assistant coroner for Blackburn Derek Baker heard.
They told the inquest they invited Oliver and other guests to join them, but Oliver, who played for Settle United’s first team had a match the next day and did not want to go.
Sgt Mick Young from the road policing unit said Oliver had persistently phoned and texted Gabriella and Wade between 11-30pm and 3-30am. He sent Gabriella four text messages, one reading: “Why are you being so bad, ring me.”
Gabriella said she and Oliver had mutually decided to split up a few months before the wedding and had gone together as friends. She said Oliver had been drinking beer and alcopop Blue Wicked during the night. They had gone to Wade’s room for drinks after the reception finished and Gabriella and Wade said they wanted to get a taxi to Accrington. Oliver wanted to stay at the Dunkenhalgh as he had football the next day. Gabriella said she knew Oliver was a “little angry” with her, but thought he would go to bed.
She told the inquest she had lost her handbag and phone and had not heard any of Oliver’s calls or texts.
Oliver’s life-long friend Ryan Dunn, who was also staying overnight at the Dunkenhalgh, said Oliver had woken him up after banging on his hotel room door. He said Oliver’s shirt was ripped and he had blood on his hands “as if he had been fighting” but he told Ryan he had put through his car window.
The first Ryan knew something was wrong was when Oliver’s football team manager phoned to ask if it was true Oliver had been in a crash, to which Ryan replied “no he’s in bed”.
Wade told the inquest he was unaware Oliver was upset, that he seemed “fine” and he had not ignored any of his phone calls. He had spoken to Oliver once they had got to Accrington and said Oliver should get a taxi to meet them.
Farmer Alan Parker, of Smithies Bridge Farm, Sawley, was leaving to go milking at 4-45am when he heard Oliver’s car, which had a loud exhaust, travelling towards his farm. The next thing he knew, the bridge “just lit up” and there were clouds of stones and dust. After hitting the stone marker and bridge wall, Oliver’s car travelled sideways ending up on the other side of the road, facing Preston. Mr Parker immediately ran inside and phoned for an ambulance while others from the farm went to Oliver.
Crash investigator PC Jason Colclough said Oliver was wearing a seat belt and driving at around 60mph (the legal limit for the road) when he crashed. He said the car’s tyre pressures varied and could have made the vehicle less stable.
Oliver’s mum, Carol Jones, told how she last saw her son at 6pm on the Saturday. He had been working all day at the market stall with his father, Trevor, and came home to get changed before picking up Gabriella and driving to the Dunkenhalgh. She told him to be careful and not drink too much if he was playing football the next day.
She said Oliver had lost his driving licence through dangerous driving a couple of years ago and this had scared him, hence why he had booked to stay at the Dunkenhalgh.
“I cannot understand why he has done this,” Mrs Jones told the inquest, adding that what had happened was “horrifying” and out of character.
Paying tribute to her son, she described him as “a golden boy, he had it all, he was clever, handsome, athletic, popular, funny, helpful and above all very kind”.
She went on: “Oliver was a hard worker for his dad on the local markets and a good football player for his local football team, Settle United. This is a devastating loss to his mother, father, sister and family and all his many friends and to the town of Settle.”
East Lancashire assistant coroner Derek Baker said: “Speed is not the problem here. I think there has been an over reaction that has caused a loss of control.
“I cannot ignore the high level of alcohol in his bloodstream, I think that will be one of the main reasons. What’s harder for me is why he took the decision to drive at all when he knew he was over the limit. It does suggest an emergency or that he was deeply upset. The alcohol and cocaine must have clouded his judgement not only in his driving, but also in his decision to drive.”
He said the true reasons for Oliver’s decision to leave the hotel and drive would never be known. He found that Oliver had died in a road traffic collision.
Family liaison officer PC Alex Martinez said: “This case reminds us how fragile life is and is a warning to all young lads.”