Warning to US drivers after deaths

A CORONER is to write to US air force chiefs so “lessons can be learned” after two servicemen died in head-on collisions while driving on the wrong side of the road.

A CORONER is to write to US air force chiefs so “lessons can be learned” after two servicemen died in head-on collisions while driving on the wrong side of the road.

Julious Hawkins, 25, from RAF Mildenhall died in a crash close to Bury St Edmunds on the A14 on October 6 last year after travelling 12 miles westbound on the eastbound carriageway.

Fellow serviceman John Biram, 27, from RAF Lakenheath, died on December 23 last year on the A1304 in Newmarket.

In both cases Coroner Dr Peter Dean recorded a verdict of accidental death and said Wing Commanders on each base would receive letters from him outlining what had happened.


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Both men were over the drink-drive limit, with Mr Hawkins over three times legal limit and he had taken a “therapeutic” quantity of sleeping tablets.

The toxicology report said when Hawkins, who lived in Bradfield Combust, near Bury, had taken to the wheel shortly after 3am his alcohol blood levels would have left him in a “pre coma” stage which would have “grossly impaired” his judgement.

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Dr Dean said Mr Hawkins had “personal problems in his life but there was no proof it was an intentional act” despite the fact that the American had passed five other vehicles before ploughing into an HGV transporter carrying two other vehicles and bursting into flames.

In the case of Mr Biram, who lived in Cambridge and had been in the UK for two months, his crash also occurred on fine and dry night but he took no evasive when confronted by an HGV in Newmarket.

“Maybe he reverted to his more 'natural' side of the road because of the effect of the alcohol which would certainly have effected his driving,” Dr Dean said.

The toxicology reports stated he was almost twice the legal limit.

No other driver was seriously hurt in either case but Dr Dean, said: “I'm concerned we must learn lessons from these tragedies so I will bring them to the attention of the authorities to prevent future fatalities. The tragedy could have involved other lives.”

A spokesman from RAF Mildenhall said: “Not only are we concerned with their safety but the safety of those living in the entire community. The tragedy involving Airman Hawkins was unfortunate and our thoughts and prayers go out to all involved.”

A RAF Lakenheath spokeswoman said: “We're always looking to change our policies. Currently we require all drivers under the age of 26 to take a practical UK driving course on the roads before they're granted a licence to drive here. In addition to that the base holds numerous designated driver programmes.”

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