COUNTY NEWS: Dramatic video shows final moments before fatal crash

WARNING: Some people may find the content of this video distressing.

The scene of the crash - St Michael and All Saints church. Photo courtesy of Google Maps street view. SUS-151210-111835001
The scene of the crash - St Michael and All Saints church. Photo courtesy of Google Maps street view. SUS-151210-111835001

The families of two young men who lost their lives in a crash in Crowborough back in April have released mobile phone footage of the moments before their death.

Driver Kyle Careford, 20, and his friend Michael Owen, 21, both died instantly when the red Renault Clio they were in crashed into a church wall in the early hours of Sunday, April 12 and overturned. Michael had been videoing their journey as they sped at up to 90mph through the Sussex countryside.

Now their families have supported the release of the video, which was shown at the inquest into their deaths in Hastings on Tuesday (October 6).

The inquest heard how the two friends, both from Royal Tunbridge Wells but staying in Crowborough at the time, had taken a cocktail of prescribed and illegal drugs that would have resulted in severe toxicity, and would have had a severely detrimental effect on Kyle’s ability to control the car. This was compounded by his inexperience - he did not have a licence and was uninsured to drive the car, which was owned by Michael.

On the video, the pair can be seen and heard laughing, chatting and singing as Michael appears to be giving Kyle a driving lesson as they pass through Rotherfield and on in to Jarvis Brook, where their journey came to a tragic end. The car, travelling well in excess of the 30mph speed limit, careered off the B2100, smashing through a wall into the grounds of St Michael and All Saints church.

Both men, who had been wearing seat belts, died instantly. The video was retrieved from Michael’s phone found under a tree at the crash scene the following morning.

Witnesses reported seeing the car at various times in the hours leading up to the crash. A lorry driver reported how he had been halted by the car that had randomly stopped in the carriageway and then sped off as he tried to manoeuvre around it; a taxi driver said that he had been forced off the carriageway by a speeding red car on the wrong side of the road and a woman had witnessed the car doing ‘doughnuts’ in a Crowborough car park.

The coroner recorded a verdict of death by road traffic collision on both men.

Speaking after the inquest, Michael’s mother Kat said: “We bring our children up teaching them right from wrong. We guide them and give them our advice and hope they listen, but once they are adults we hope they make the right choices.

“I really don’t know why the boys chose to do what they did, but I blame them both for the decisions they made on this night.

“If all this stops one person from making the same mistake, then some good has come from showing this video. I’m hoping it will have an impact on young people and make them see that a bit of fun can have such devastating consequences.

“I would like all the young people out there to take notice and realise that you are not invincible and take seriously how precious your lives are to yourselves and others. I want young drivers to consider how much devastation it causes to the families and loved ones that are left behind.

“Watching the video was very upsetting, but I’m hoping it can be used in a positive way, by showing young people what could happen to them.”

Zac Hemming, Kyle’s brother, said: “This footage or anything of its kind should never be recorded, let alone watched. However, despite the pain of it being broadcast by the media, we as a family just hope and pray that this will connect with at least one person out there, young or old, so that no-one ever has to experience the unthinkable pain of losing someone so close and dearly loved.

“May we now please let the boys rest in peace.”

Lauren Humble, Michael’s ex-partner added: “This video was absolutely heartbreaking to watch but it did give us all of the answers that were needed. I know plenty of people who drive fast and I hope that this video will show people that driving like this can have devastating consequences and how short life can really be. You see car accidents on the news all of the time and you never think something like that would happen to you or your family.

“The Michael we saw on that video was not the Michael we knew, who was a loving, caring responsible daddy. The legacy that Michael has left is our beautiful daughter Lily-Rose who is five-years-old, she will have to live with the impact of this horrific situation forever.”

Chief Inspector Phil Nicholas from the Surrey and Sussex road policing unit, said: “I can not overstate the courage of both families in working with us to release this video and to add their words and thoughts about it. Sadly, my officers have to deal with the aftermath of fatal collisions on an all too regular basis, but the loss of two young lives in this incident in such circumstances is in equal measure shocking and frustrating.

“As Kat and Zac have so poignantly expressed, if the release of this incredibly impactive footage results in lives saved, then it will be a valuable legacy of Michael and Kyle’s sad deaths.”

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