Two chefs died in ‘devastating’ crash after leaving pub, inquest hears

Victim: Cristian Radu was driving the car
Victim: Cristian Radu was driving the car
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Alcohol, a mis-matched tyre set-up and excessive speed led to the tragic deaths of two chefs, an inquest heard today (Thursday, January 25).

Friends Florin Cristian Radu, 33, and Florin-Adrian Mateas, 43, both born in Bucharest, Romania, died from severe injuries after a rear wheel drive blue BMW, driven by Mr Radu, collided with a tree just before midnight at Coopers Green, Uckfield, on July 20 last year.

Floral tributes left at the scene of the accident in Coopers Green Road. Photograph by Eddie Mitchell

Floral tributes left at the scene of the accident in Coopers Green Road. Photograph by Eddie Mitchell

Blood tests on Mr Radu revealed he was one-and-a-half times over the legal drink-driving limit.

The Eastbourne inquest heard the pair, who both worked as chefs at The Pig and Butcher, Five Ash Down, had cleared up after service that evening and headed to The Ringles Cross pub nearby.

They were returning from there to The Pig and Butcher, where Mr Mateas lived, when the tragedy happened.

Landlord of The Pig and Butcher David Gardner said both were ‘excellent chefs’. He and his wife drove to The Ringles Cross pub for a retirement party that night. Before leaving he saw emergency flashing lights reflected through the pub window. He said: “I set off to drive home, but something told me all was not in good order. Then I realised to my horror what had happened.”

Witness Mark Pointer, from Uckfield, was driving in the opposite direction. He told the Coroner: “I saw headlights coming towards me. The vehicle was going too fast. It took a left hand bend but seemed to lose control and crashed into a tree. I stopped for a minute but then the ambulance came.”

Five Ash Down resident Richard Harvey was in bed watching TV when he heard “a crump or a thud”.

He said: “There were no noises in the lead up, no screeching tyres.”

Going to help, he saw the victims in the front of the BMW. He tried to help them out but then emergency services arrived.

Police traffic investigator Paul Banks described a set-up where eight-inch tyres were smaller than the nine-inch wheel rim width. Questioned by Coroner Alan Craze he agreed the set-up, usually on performance cars, made the vehicle harder to steer. In his opinion, skid marks indicated a speed of between 70-99mph, “the higher level was the more likely”.

Mr Craze agreed that this, combined with Mr Radu’s alcohol level and the difficulty of steering once the BMW’s rear slipped away, contributed to the crash.

He recorded a verdict that both deaths were attributable to a road traffic accident. He said: “The purpose of an inquest is not to ascribe blame. This was a devastating accident and I would like to give my sympathies to the families involved.”

Mr Radu, of Blois Road, Lewes, moved to the UK to work in 2004 and met his wife Barbara, 33, while working together at The Green Man pub in Ringmer. The couple had two daughters, Alicia and Julia.

Just after the accident happened, Barbara said: “Cristian was my ray of sunshine, the kindest and most loving person I have ever met. He might be gone but he will never be forgotten.”