Inquest into fatal crash at Ballyconnelly

editorial image

Two English soldiers were killed when their car failed to stop at a junction near Cullybackey.

Their vehicle crashed into a tractor driving on a main road, a Coroner’s Court in Belfast has been told.

The men had been serving with The Rifles at Thiepval barracks, Lisburn.

They were Lance Corporal David Gwilt, from Bedford, and Rifleman Dale Harris, from Barnsley.

One of their colleagues - Rifleman Matthew Robins - managed to escape major injury in the collision on the Ballyconnelly Road near Cullybackey last August.

Coroner John Leckey heard testimony from survivor Mr. Robins in which he described how he and his two comrades who died had been on a fishing trip.

They had stopped at two lakes and were on the way to find another spot when the accident happened.

Mr., Robins said he was the front passenger seat of the car but had no memory of the crash that followed. He confirmed that none of the men were familiar with the roads in that part of Co Antrim.

Jordan Marks was driving the tractor and trailer along the Ballyconnelly Road at around 8pm when the silver Fiat Punto driven by Mr Gwilt emerged from a junction.

The vehicle crashed into the front of the tractor before spinning around and hitting into a road sign.

A Road traffic collision investigator from Forensic Science Northern Ireland, Mr. Gavin Dunn, said the junction with Ballyconnelly Road was clearly marked with signs and road markings.

He said it was not possible to determine the exact speed the soldiers’ car was travelling at, but noted: “It was not moving at a relatively slow speed.”

Having heard this evidence Mr Leckey said the car had failed to stop at the junction.

“Very tragically that led to a collision with the tractor and the deaths of the driver and passenger.”

The coroner was also told by a police officer there had been a “collision history” at the junction with another side road directly opposite the road the soldiers were travelling on which could give the the impression of one continuing road.

“If you weren’t paying close attention you might miss the junction completely,” he said.

Transport NI has agreed to introduce additional safety measures at the junction - such as ‘rumble strip’ road paint to give drivers further warning to slow down and high visibility bordering around the stop signs.

Mr Leckey said: “I always hope something will arise out of a tragedy that will improve matters and may prevent the occurrence of something similar,” he said.

The deaths were recorded as being the result of a road crash.