Launceston dad-to-be died after crashing off the A30 while over the limit and texting

A 25-year-old dad-to-be who was found dead in his car next to the A30 lost control after drinking several pints and texting at the wheel. Farmer Elliott Lodge, from Launceston, crashed his Mitsubishi pickup into a tree-lined ditch close to the speed camera between Plusha services and Two Bridges on the evening of Saturday, July 20, last year. Elliott wasn’t discovered until the following afternoon, some 20 hours later, as nobody had witnessed the vehicle leaving the road.

An inquest heard how Elliott could have been found earlier had a police call operator acted upon a tip-off from a lorry driver who witnessed smoke and a damaged crash barrier. Elliott had drunk several pints in a pub with friends in the nearby village of Treburley in the hours before the crash, leaving at around 7.30pm before deciding to drive home. He is believed to have crashed around 45 minutes later, having lost control due to a combination of the alcohol and using his phone.

He had sent approximately 60 messages to his pregnant fianc?e and others whilst at the wheel. Elliott died as a result of catastrophic head trauma, a pathologist concluded. Toxicology tests confirmed that he was over the drink-drive limit.

Police at the scene

The following morning, family and friends became concerned after Elliott hadn’t returned home to his fianc?e or made contact with anybody.

They began looking for him and at around 4pm Elliott’s friend Dean Jasper visited the scene of the crash, having seen the damaged barrier some hours earlier and later realising Elliott may have been involved in an accident. Mr Jasper described feeling “empty” when he first saw his friend’s crushed Mitsubishi. Coroner Guy Davies paraphrased Mr Jasper’s statement on his behalf: “He (Mr Jasper) saw significant damage to trees and the back of the truck.

He knew straight away it was Elliott’s.

Read More
Related Articles
Read More
Related Articles

“He described feeling empty and his heart was racing. The vehicle was upright and when looking inside the vehicle, Mr Jasper states he could only see the top of Elliott’s shoulder. He knew Elliott was dead.”

Mr Jasper informed family and friends and contacted the emergency services. Although a forensic vehicle examiner found several defects with the Mitsubishi, it was deemed none of them would have contributed to the collision. There was insufficient evidence to calculate the speed Elliott had been travelling at.

The pickup suffered extensive and “unsurvivable” damage as a result of a collision with large trees.

Launceston dad-to-be died after crashing off the A30 while over the limit and textingPolice at the scene

Forensic collision investigator Andrew Fletcher concluded that Elliott’s phone was in use at the very moment of the collision. “As a result of the investigation it was established that the driver of the Mitsubishi lost control of the vehicle whilst driving along the dual carriageway and leaving the road to the nearside,” said Mr Fletcher. “The vehicle has then crashed through the nearside barrier and travelled some distance through the trees and heavy vegetation before coming to a rest at the bottom of a wooded ravine.” The vehicle hit a large tree, Mr Fletcher said, with the impact crushing the driver’s area.

“It appears the cause of the collision is attributable to Elliott and his manner of driving,” Mr Fletcher added.

Launceston dad-to-be died after crashing off the A30 while over the limit and textingPolice at the scene of the tragic A30 pick-up truck crash

“Elliott drove the vehicle having consumed enough alcohol to place him over the legal drink drivel limit. Elliott was also engaging in texting whilst driving. A combination of both of these causal factors are likely to have contributed to this collision.

“The texting is likely to have distracted Elliott from driving, causing him to drift to the offside. He has over corrected his steering upon realising his error, with the initial loss of control causing him to leave the nearside area and enter the trees.” A lorry driver who passed the scene at around 8.20pm on the evening of the collision noticed that a crash barrier was severely damaged, while also describing a strange hazy smoke filling the air for a brief moment.

The driver later called police on 101 to report what he had seen. However as no log was created by the police call taker, no officers were dispatched to the scene.

Stay in the know

The matter was referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which concluded that as police attendance would not have impacted upon Elliott’s chances of surviving the incident, there was no evidence that the actions of police caused or contributed to the death. The IOPC determined that the matter should be investigated at a local level.

The call taker was investigated for misconduct and, following a hearing, was issued with a written warning. Coroner Mr Davies concluded that Elliott died as a result of a road traffic collision. “His death is a terrible reminder of the dangers of drink driving and using a mobile phone whilst driving,” said Mr Davies. “The evidence is that Elliott had been in the pub and consumed a number of pints of lager and chose to drive after doing that, and whilst doing so, the evidence is that he was engaging in a text exchange on his mobile phone, and some 60 texts were sent whilst driving.

“Elliott lost control of his vehicle due to the combined effects of alcohol and use of a mobile phone whilst driving, and died as a result of leaving the road and colliding with trees.”

You may also like...