Driver made panic phone call before fatal collision
Court heard man tell police his vehicle travelling at 119mph would not stop
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.”