Icklingham: Triple fatal accident airmen drove ‘really fast’
US SERVICEMEN based in Suffolk were seen to be driving “really fast” and overtaking on a rural road moments before a fatal crash, an inquest heard.
Witnesses have said they were concerned by the way the servicemen, from RAF Lakenheath, were driving in the moments leading up to the accident, which happened on the A1101 at Icklingham, near Bury St Edmunds, on the evening of May 30, last year.
The crash claimed the lives of Staff Sergeant Mark Stephany, 24, Senior Airman Daniel Addabbo, 23, and grandmother Gwenyth Wainwright, 55, of Abbots Close, Denham, near Bury St Edmunds.
Mrs Wainwright had been a passenger in a blue Nissan driven by her daughter Ruth, which was hit by an oncoming green BMW, driven by Staff Sgt Stephany and containing SA Addabbo.
The inquests, held in Bury yesterday, heard Staff Sgt Stephany was rounding a bend at 7.30pm when he lost control.
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Greater Suffolk Coroner Peter Dean heard a Mustang, driven by Sgt Brandon Mulford, had been following the BMW as they made their way to a banger race at Mildenhall.
Witness Anna Andrews said both were travelling “really fast” and her husband Steve, who has experience of racing cars, mentioned seeing a “power slide” manoeuvre.
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Another road user grew concerned after seeing the BMW and Mustang overtaking on a blind section of road.
Sgt Mulford denied he had been racing against the BMW, recalling he had kept within the speed limit and when he realised he could not catch up with his colleague he slowed down.
Kevin Stark, specialist collision investigator with Suffolk police, said it was reasonable to say the BMW had been travelling over the speed limit on the approach to the bend.
The inquest heard the group of servicemen had been to the Three Kings Pub at Fornham All Saints, near Bury, before making their way to the race, but toxicology results revealed no indication of excess alcohol.
Mr Stark said: “All I can say is on the approach to that bend he [Staff Sgt Stephany] has acted inappropriately.”
Staff Sgt Stephany and SA Addabbo were pronounced dead at the scene and Mrs Wainwright died in the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury on June 29 last year.
Other passengers were taken to the hospital with their injuries, including members of the Wainwright family.
During the inquest Sgt Mulford, who was prosecuted for careless driving, said he was sorry to the Wainwright family and the Addabbo family for their losses.
At Sgt Mulford’s Ipswich Crown Court sentencing in April, Judge Peter Fenn told him his overtaking manoeuvre had been a case of “cutting it too fine.”
He said: “I’m not sentencing you for any involvement in the fatal accident – only for the piece of careless driving when you overtook those two other vehicles when you were intent on keeping up with your colleague in front.”
Sgt Mulford had his licence endorsed with six penalty points, was fined �850 and ordered to pay �1,000 costs, plus a �15 victim surcharge.
A statement by the solicitors representing the family said Mrs Wainwright’s husband, Leslie and their daughter Ruth suffered severe orthopaedic injuries and remained in hospital for a number of weeks. Her three-year-old grandson Stephen was unhurt.
Ruth Booy, who heads the catastrophic injury team at solicitors Kester Cunningham John, said: “This lovely family has been torn apart.”
The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death in all three cases.