Former Heathfield student ‘lost control’ before fatal crash

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A former Heathfield student died after losing control of his car following an overtake manoeuvre on the A2100 near Battle, an inquest has heard.

Christian Martin, who lived in Hastings, was driving his Honda Civic southbound on the road when he was in collision with a Land Rover Discovery at around 10.30pm on Monday, September 21, 2015. The 27-year-old engineer was pronounced dead at the scene.

An inquest into his death, held at Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, April 14, heard how Mr Martin had been travelling behind three vehicles on the A2100 at Telham when he decided to overtake.

Rita Barbary, who was driving the car at the front of the queue, told the court: “It wasn’t raining, it was just damp on the road. You could see everything around - it shouldn’t have been a problem for drivers.

“I was driving along, looked in my wing mirror and saw these headlights. I could see there was a car coming towards us and thought he was going to get in in a minute, but he didn’t.

“I slowed down. He just seemed to cut in front of me. I think he lost control.

“I think he must have overreacted when he turned in and turned the other way. He was a little bit broadside. He hit the first vehicle that was coming the other way.

“I think if he hadn’t turned so fast, he would have been able to carry on straight in front of me.”

In a statement read to the court, Richard Tickner, who had been driving the third car in the line, said the three cars had been travelling approximately 45 miles per hour, and suspected Mr Martin had overtaken at up to 80 miles per hour.

Francesca Pantanali, who was driving the Land Rover Discovery involved in collision with Mr Martin’s car, told the court: “I saw lots of lights coming towards me. I guessed there was a row of cars and another in my lane.

“I didn’t feel in danger because I thought they were quite far away. I thought they would make room, I thought he would find space in between them.

“I slowed my car. I thought there was enough space between me and the oncoming cars. All of a sudden, the car was just right in front of me, pulling in to his correct lane.

“It was quite a snatching movement, not a gentle movement as normal.

“I thought everything was going to be fine because he managed to get back in. Then the back of his car started doing a very weird movement - I call it a fishtail movement, very quick and very fast.

“Then I saw the car right in front of me, completely twisted.

“I know he lost control of the car. If he hadn’t lost control, of his car, he would have made the manoeuvre.”

An officer from Sussex Police’s forensic collision investigation unit told the court markings on the road confirmed Mr Martin had managed to return to his correct lane following the overtake manoeuvre.

However, he said after a harsh left turn to get back into his correct lane, Mr Martin overcompensated and in a bid to straighten up, lost control of his vehicle.

The car ended up broadside in the opposing lane, directly in front of Ms Pantanali’s vehicle.

The officer believed a combination of harsh steering and the damp road condition contributed to Mr Martin losing control. One of the tyres on Mr Martin’s car also had a very low pressure, which could have contributed to the loss of control, although it could not be confirmed if the tyre pressure was low before the collision.

Alan Craze, coroner for East Sussex, recorded a conclusion of road traffic collision.

Shortly after his death, Mr Martin’s family paid tribute to him. In a statement released through Sussex Police, they said: “Christian had a love for heavy metal music and cars. He was close to his family and was very family-orientated.

“He was also a practical joker and loved playing pranks on his family and friends. He has two young nieces who adored their Uncle.

“He was very close to his father who sadly died in April. They undertook many practical projects together including restoring an old car and undertaking DIY projects. They were not only father and son, but also best friends.

“Christian worked as an engineer in Hastings. He was a perfectionist and had recently been rewarded with a pay rise for his hard work. Aside from his friendly competitive banter, he had a heart of gold and was a very caring person.

“Christian was very close to his girlfriend Katie who was studying in Ireland. When they met it was love at first sight. She was completing her internship in nursing and was planning on moving back to the UK so they could be together.”

He was born in Derbyshire but moved to Sussex in the early 1990s, attending Maynards Green School and Heathfield Community College.

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