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Teenage driver killed in A140 crash was messaging at the wheel, inquest hears

PUBLISHED: 08:18 17 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:06 18 May 2019

Shannon Gittings, 17, from Diss, who died in a car crash on the A140. Picture: Gittings family

Shannon Gittings, 17, from Diss, who died in a car crash on the A140. Picture: Gittings family

Archant

A teenager killed when her car crashed on the A140 had been exchanging phone messages at the time of the accident, an inquest has heard.

Emergency services at the scene of the crash at Tasburgh in which Diss teenager Shannon Gittings died. Picture: Simon ParkinEmergency services at the scene of the crash at Tasburgh in which Diss teenager Shannon Gittings died. Picture: Simon Parkin

Shannon Gittings, of Shelfanger Road, Diss, died on October 3 last year after her Fiat 500 swerved across the opposite carriageway and collided with a tree near the Quaker Lane junction at Tasburgh.

The 17-year-old, who had passed her driving test less than a month before the collision, had been on her way home from her job as a systems administrator when the accident occurred at shortly before 5.30pm.

An inquest in Norwich heard that Miss Gittings' boyfriend Henry Smith had provided screenshots from his mobile phone to show that he had been in conversation with her using the mobile messaging service iMessage in the minutes leading up to the collision.

Police closed the A140 for several hours following the crash at Tasburgh in which Diss teenager Shannon Gittings died. Picture: Simon ParkinPolice closed the A140 for several hours following the crash at Tasburgh in which Diss teenager Shannon Gittings died. Picture: Simon Parkin

The hearing was shown dash-cam footage captured by the car following the teenager showing her Fiat weaving in the southbound lane before its wheels left the nearside verge. The car then careered across oncoming traffic in the opposite lane before striking a tree on its side.

Andrew Hughes, lead investigation officer of the serious collision investigation unit, summarising the findings of an investigation by PC Peter Forbes-Scott, said: "The time of last message sent on iMessage by Miss Gittings is shown as 5.26pm and the last sent by Mr Smith as 5.27pm. This appears to coincide with the time on the video that shows when the Fiat began to lose control."

He added: "PC Forbes-Scott feels it is likely that Miss Gittings was reading or replying to Mr Smith's message and that provides an explanation why the Fiat's nearside wheels left the carriageway.

The stretch of the A140 at Tasburgh where Diss teenager Shannon Gittings died when her car struck a tree. Work has subsequently seen trees felled or cut back. Picture: Sonya DuncanThe stretch of the A140 at Tasburgh where Diss teenager Shannon Gittings died when her car struck a tree. Work has subsequently seen trees felled or cut back. Picture: Sonya Duncan

"Although the phone was not examined for internet activity this could explain why the vehicle was wheeling about within its lane as can be seen at various points in the footage prior to the collision. Therefore he considers that mobile phone use is highly likely to be a factor in the collision."

The inquest was also told that Miss Gittings' inexperience as a driver may have led her to overreact to her vehicle leaving the carriageway.

Ruling that she died as the result of a road traffic collision, Norfolk area coroner Yvonne Blake said: "This is a very sad death and waste of a young life. It does highlight just how quickly you can lose control of your car if you are distracted, particularly by doing something like texting or receiving a message.

"If any message comes out of this sad event it is to encourage people to not text, or iMessage, or Snapchat, whilst driving. I understand her parents are very keen to discourage other youngsters who may well do the same thing to stop doing it."

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