A MAN who died on his birthday after smashing head-on into another car on the Cwm-Aberbeeg road last July, was two-and-a-half times over the legal drink-drive limit.

Mark Perkins, 41, who lived in Blaina, also had cannabis and diazepam in his system at the time of the crash, had been "selfish and reckless" in his actions on the evening of July 21, said senior coroner for Gwent Wendy James.

An inquest at Gwent Coroner's Court sitting in Newport today heard Mr Perkins had never passed a driving test and was disqualified from driving at the time.

Mr Perkins had been driving a Peugeot 307 when it collided with a Hyundai i10 along the A4046.

"He should have been nowhere near a car that night," said Ms James.

"For some unknown reason, he thought he had a right to get behind the wheel.

"That evening he put his own safety at risk, as well as other road users.

"His actions that evening can only be described as selfish and reckless."

Mr Perkins was thrown from his car - a Peugeot he had bought only the previous day - and died at the scene of head injuries.

His passenger, partner Lisa Marie Williams, was seriously injured, and the driver of the other car - Nigel Webber, of Six Bells - suffered life-changing injuries.

The inquest was told that Mr Webber remains in danger of losing his right leg, which was shattered in the collision. He remains unable to resume work as a security guard, and has to use a wheelchair.

At the inquest hearing, it was revealed that Mr Perkins, who had a long-standing alcohol problem, had been drinking cider with his partner for much of the day, at different addresses in Blaenau Gwent.

On the evening of the crash they were at a house in Ebbw Vale where Mr Perkins argued with Ms Williams' daughter.

Blows were exchanged and she telephoned the police.

Mr Perkins and Ms Williams then left, driving to a takeaway shop in nearby Cwm, before heading off down the A4046 towards Aberbeeg.

At shortly before 10.30pm, Mr Perkins' car veered out of its lane and smashed into Mr Webber's Hyundai. The latter had been driving to Ebbw Vale for a security shift.

Investigations subsequently revealed that Mr Perkins' car had been travelling at 58-70mph at impact, and 66-76mph seconds earlier. The speed limit on the road is 60mph.

In a statement read at the hearing, Ms Williams said Mr Perkins had never worn a seatbelt properly.

He had, she said, worn it loose over his shoulder so that he could run away from the police easily.

She also said he had a bad history of driving offences.

A post mortem examination revealed that Mr Perkins had 200 milligrams of alcohol in his system per 100 millilitres of blood, at the time of his death. The legal limit for driving is 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres.

He also had cannabis and diazepam in his system.

PC David Cole, of Gwent Police, was the first on the scene, having been keeping an eye out for Mr Perkins' car after the earlier call had been received from Ms Williams' daughter.

Seconds before the crash, while travelling towards Cwm, he had passed Mr Perkins' car, which was heading in the opposite direction.

He had turned round at the Cwm roundabout in pursuit, but soon came upon the crash scene.

Ms James concluded that Mr Perkins died as a result of a drink and drugs related road traffic collision.