THE death of a young Gwent couple who died in a road traffic accident was a "tragic and needless loss", a coroner has said.
Thomas Lawrence, 21, of Caerleon and his girlfriend 16-year-old Courtney Smith, of the Pontypool area, both died from their injuries following a crash in Caerleon on Wednesday, February 24 this year.
Mr Lawrence was pronounced dead at the scene and Miss Smith was treated at the Royal Gwent Hospital before being transferred to the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, where she later died.
An inquest at Newport Coroner’s Court, (October 4) heard the pair were returning from the 21st birthday of Tom’s friend, Jack Payne, at the Two Rivers Pub in Chepstow.
As the pair entered Belmont Hill, Caerleon, driver Mr Lawrence lost control of the car, which turned at a 45 degree angle before entering woodland near to the King’s Head Pub.
Pub owner Mark David William Hazell was leaving the venue with his wife and staff when he heard sound of the nearby crash.
In a written statement, he recalled “cuddling (Courtney) and keeping her warm” and then checking on her boyfriend before ringing emergency services.
A Gwent Police investigation by PC Tony Parker, stated that the driver was travelling at around 51mph when he started to brake ahead of a 30mph zone.
Despite the temperature being minus one degree on the night, there were no adverse weather conditions, ice or road defects and the tyre marks indicated “heavy braking,” he added.
Mr Lawrence’s blood alcohol level was recorded as 114mg per 100ml of blood, with the legal limit being 80mg per 100ml, and toxicology reports suggested recent use of cannabis.
Evidence confirmed that both driver and passenger were not wearing seatbelts.
Quoting the British Medical Journal PC Parker added that drivers are 16 times more likely to have an accident after consuming both alcohol and cannabis.
Pathology concluded that Miss Smith died from a traumatic brain injury and that Mr Lawrence died from anaphylactic shock, multiple injuries, trauma and alcohol intoxication.
Former West Monmouth Comprehensive and Pontypool College student, Miss Smith, previously worked at an insurance firm in Newport before the crash.
Mum Tania Wallace, in a written statement, said: “Courtney loved cars and it was all she ever talked about [...] Tom had so much respect for Courtney and when I met him he was a lovely man.”
Mr Lawrence was a machine operator at Aberdare-based civil engineering company Rapidgrid Ltd, where had had worked for two years.
A written tribute from step-father Geraint Bowen credited his love for the outdoor life and farm work, describing him as an animal lover who “lived in his wellies and overalls in all weather.”
Summing up, Assistant Coroner Wendy James concluded that if the pair wore seatbelts “the chances of survival would have been increased.”
“This is a tragic and needless loss of two young lives who had their whole lives ahead of them,” she added.
She recorded both deaths as “the result of a road traffic collision”.
Reacting to the verdict, Courtney's father Robert Smith said that he knew that the "verdict wasn't going to be good" but admitted that "he could take closure from it", adding: “I would also ask everyone to think before they drink and drive.”