Driver made panic phone call be­fore fa­tal col­li­sion

Court heard man tell po­lice his ve­hi­cle trav­el­ling at 119mph would not stop

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - by Tom Her­bert tom.her­bert@trin­i­tymir­ Twit­ter: @TRHer­bert

A DRIVER made a pan­icked phone call to po­lice telling them his car would not stop just min­utes be­fore he ploughed into the back of a lorry.

Car lover Kaushal Gandhi reached a top speed of 119mph in West­ern Av­enue, Den­ham, be­fore hit­ting a parked HGV with such force that wit­nesses said his white Skoda Oc­tavia was ‘ em­bed­ded’ un­derneath.

Bea­cons­field Coro­ner’s Court heard yes­ter­day (Wed­nes­day Novem­ber 23) that Mr Gandhi, 32, from Har­row, told a po­lice call han­dler he could not con­trol his car as he sped along the mo­tor­way east­bound in the early hours of Fe­bru­ary 2.

Fol­low­ing a de­tailed ex­am­i­na­tion of the de­bris crash in­ves­ti­ga­tors found noth­ing wrong with the sports hatch­back.

The force of the crash bent the lorry’s rear axle as it was parked for the night in a layby on the A40.

The court was told it would have killed the Mum­bai-born mo­torist in­stantly.

In the phone call played to the court, ac­counts and in­for­ma­tion man­ager Mr Gandhi told po­lice the car was ‘not com­ing out of cruise con­trol’ as he ap­proached Bea­cons­field ser­vices.

He added: “It’s not let­ting me stop. I’ve pressed all the but­tons.

“I set it at 70mph and I think I’m go­ing much faster than this. I think it’s 73/74mph but I can’t take it off cruise con­trol.”

Dur­ing the eight and a half minute phone con­ver­sa­tion Mr Gandhi said his car would not let him change gears and that, de­spite press­ing but­tons, noth­ing was hap­pen­ing.

“All it makes is a noise,” he said. “I tried to change the mode of the car be­cause I wanted the sports mode.

“I pressed the but­ton to go back to nor­mal mode and it’s just switched off.

“I don’t know what’s hap­pened. It doesn’t let me do any­thing.”

To­wards the end of the phone call, Mr Gandhi added the car was ‘try­ing to shift’ him across lanes.

Martin Clat­wor­thy, a prod­uct safety spe­cial­ist for Volk­swa­gen, said airbag data showed that five sec­onds prior to the crash the ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal was pressed to the floor and the engine speed was at 3,200rpm, but as the car ap­proached the lorry there was no force on ei­ther the ac­cel­er­a­tor or the brake at all.

Mr Clat­wor­thy said: “There’s no in­di­ca­tion there was any er­ror with the ve­hi­cle sys­tems on the car.”

Asked by coro­ner Crispin But­ler what could cause the steer­ing wheel to move, Mr Clat­wor­thy said: “The only thing that could ac­count for that steer­ing in­put is the driver that’s op­er­at­ing the steer­ing at the time.”

Col­li­sion in­ves­ti­ga­tor for Thames Val­ley Po­lice, An­drew Evans, said there were no prob­lems with the road sur­face and that vis­i­bil­ity was good.

He said there were no tyre marks on the road and no in­di­ca­tion that Mr Gandhi had pulled the hand­brake.

He said: “There are no marks on the car­riage­way to in­di­cate a me­chan­i­cal fail­ure.

“I’ve never come across any­thing that makes a ve­hi­cle veer vi­o­lently un­less there’s a ma­jor elec­tri­cal fault, but a dis­con­nec­tion of the drive would solve any prob­lems.”

In a wit­ness state­ment read out in court, Emma Par­rott said she was sleep­ing in­side the lorry when Mr Gandhi hit.

She said: “I was wo­ken up by a big bang and I was thrown for­ward from my bunk to the pas­sen­ger seat.

“The car was em­bed­ded un­derneath [the lorry]. I re­alised im­me­di­ately that anyone in the car would have been un­likely to have sur­vived.”

Robert Hague, who had been driv­ing a van when he saw the crash, said: “The car was al­most com­pletely em­bed­ded un­der the lorry.

“The roof of the car was peeled back to the fuel tank fil­ter cap and was flush on the back of the lorry.

“Part of the lorry’s un­der chas­sis was on top of where the car driver should be.”

Mr But­ler said there was a ‘patch­work of in­for­ma­tion with sig­nif­i­cant in­con­sis­ten­cies’.

The cause of death was given as mul­ti­ple in­juries.

Mr But­ler recorded a nar­ra­tive ver­dict.

He said: “In this par­tic­u­lar case the facts are very un­usual and we’re left with more ques­tions than an­swers.

“There are doubts in re­la­tion to the ve­hi­cle.

“We have a phone call in which faults are re­ported and dif­fi­cul­ties in con­trol­ling the ve­hi­cle.

“Eight and a half min­utes prior to the col­li­sion, Mr Gandhi had been on the phone to Thames Val­ley Po­lice, dur­ing which he in­di­cated a num­ber of faults with the Skoda.

“The ve­hi­cle was badly dam­aged but in­ves­ti­ga­tions have not re­vealed the faults de­scribed by Mr Gandhi.”

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