Inquest: Dad's death 'accidental' Man died after his car hit tree at high speed — (Newcastle Evening Chronicle)

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Newcastle Evening Chronicle

January 11, 2013

A DAD-OF-ONE died close to his home when his car ploughed at high speed into a tree, an inquest heard.   Keith Conkey, 46, suffered fatal injuries a year ago this month after he was thrown from the Ford Fiesta he was driving along Coach Lane in Newsham Avenue, Hazelrigg.

Described as a “popular gentleman” with “lots of friends” the court heard Mr Conkey was hugely proud of his 20-year-old daughter Melissa.

In a statement his wife Wendy said: “She was his life and he was very proud of her. He couldn’t believe he had such a well-behaved daughter.” Mr Conkey was unemployed after having to give up work due to suffering osteoporosis. He suffered bouts of depression and after trying to beat the illness began taking medication four years ago.

On the morning on January 25, 2012, the inquest heard he’d visited his wife at her workplace to pick up money for alcohol and cigarettes.   In her statement Mrs Conkey, his wife of more than 20 years, said: “He asked me if I could take the following day off work as he planned to take me out for a meal for my birthday.

REGULAR The Masons Arms in Dinnington “He wasn’t acting differently and I would never have thought that would be the last time I would speak to him.”

Leaving his wife’s workplace Mr Conkey headed to the Masons Arms in Dinnington where he’d become a regular and was said that day to be “his usual happy self”.

After drinking with friends he left just before 3pm.   Addressing the hearing at Newcastle Civic Centre yesterday pathologist Peter Cooper confirmed Mr Conkey had been one and half times over the legal drink drive limit when he’d died.

Heading eastwards on the single carriageway, a 60 mph stretch with a 30mph restriction through Hazelrigg, Mr Conkey’s car went into the opposite carriageway

before mounting a grass verge and travelled 23 metres. It collided with what collision investigator PC Geoffrey Gallon recalled was the “largest tree in that area on the verge”.

Crash scene investigators discovered CCTV footage from a resident’s property showing a dark coloured Ford Fiesta similar to that of Mr Conkey’s travelling up and down Coach Lane at least three times in the minutes before the fatal crash.   Giving detailed evidence at the inquest PC Gallon said there were no signs the brakes had been applied or that Mr Conkey, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, had attempted to steer away from the tree. Frozen on impact the car’s speedometer logged a reading of 103mph.

PC Gallon theorized if Mr Conkey had steered to the left he could have avoided the tree. But when questioned by coroner Karen Dilks agreed “it would have needed to be a very, very prompt action” to a situation which took just 1.5 seconds to unfold. Ms Dilks recorded a verdict of accidental death.