Best friend killed in drink-drive accident

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A driver was three times over the drink drive limit when he crashed his car, killing his best friend.

Front seat passenger Graham Stickland, 29, of Glassbrook Road, Rushden, was killed instantly during the smash on the A45 in Wellingborough.

The A45 at Wellingborough where Graham Stickland died and William Johnson was  seriously injured

The A45 at Wellingborough where Graham Stickland died and William Johnson was seriously injured

His best pal, driver William Johnson, formerly of High Street, Earls Barton, is now a paraplegic after the car the pair were travelling in plunged down an embankment following an evening of drinking.

Coroner Anne Pember, sitting at Kettering Magistrates Court, heard the duo had enjoyed a night out at Billing Aquadrome on May 9, 2011.

During the early hours of the next morning, the pair were travelling home along the A45 when their car clipped a kerb, flipped over a barrier and rolled down the embankment on to the Turnells Mill Lane slip road, hitting a street lamp.

Mr Johnson, 36, was not wearing his seatbelt and was thrown from the vehicle. He was discovered lying in the carriageway. He has since spent several months in rehabilitation at the specialist Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire.

Chelsea FC fan Mr Stickland, known to pals as Golfie, was discovered dead, still belted into the passenger seat.

Both had more than three times the driving alcohol limit in their system. Mr Johnson had a previous conviction for drink driving.

Witness Raymond Hewitt told the court he had seen Mr Johnson’s Renault Scenic travelling along the A45 at about 2.30am on May 10. He said the Scenic was not going too fast, and was moving normally.

Mr Johnson did not appear in court. A summary of his statement was read by the coroner.

Mrs Pember said: “The crash has left him permanently paraplegic and in hospital for a long time.

“He has no recollection of the events before the crash.

“He was asked why he thought the collision had occurred but he remembers nothing.”

Giving evidence in a written statement, Mr Stickland’s mother Lesley Young said her son was a keen DJ, and had worked as a shop fitter where he met his pal William Johnson, known as Billy.

Mrs Young said: “His life was cut short due to the accident. But I am struggling to lay all the blame at Billy’s feet. He (Mr Stickland) was a grown man,” she said.

“My life has been completely altered by these events.”

Mrs Young added that she would put her faith in the legal system to ensure justice was done.

Traffic collision investigator PC Shay Herbison said there were no mechanical defects to the car. There were no other vehicles involved and PC Herbison said Mr Johnson had not been able to give a reason why he had lost control.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mrs Pember said: “What a shame that Mr Stickland got into a car driven by his friend who had a large amount of alcohol – a person who had a drink driving conviction.

“I am satisfied his reactions would have been seriously adversely affected by the amount of alcohol in his system.”

Johnson has been charged with driving with excess alcohol and will appear before magistrates later this month.