A close friend of the driver of the A4 Derry Hill tragedy has told how Jordan Rawlings spent an evening enjoying a couple of beers and a kebab, before the crash that killed him and his three passengers.

The inquest into the death of Jordan was held today and the coroner recorded a verdict of road traffic collision as his cause of death. 

Jordan died from head injuries in the smash, which saw his car – a white, two-door VW polo – left the road on the long left bend of the A4 at Derry Hill in the early hours of August 16 last year.

It ploughed through a hedge and smashed into a house,  bursting into flames, killing him and his three passengers Matthew Parke, Corey Owen and Ryan Nelson.

Today, coroner Ian Singleton ruled that Jordan had died due to head injuries sustained in the crash, after he was found to be driving at excess speed and while over the legal alcohol limit.

A close friend, Adam Inkpen, had been with Jordan on the Saturday evening before he later left to pick up his friends in Chippenham and take them towards Calne.

Jordan had driven to Adam’s house, stopping for an energy drink on the way, and spent time with Adam and his girlfriend.

Adam’s statement, read out during the inquest, described Jordan’s behaviour as nothing out the ordinary.

“He was in a good mood, he was no different to any other time I’d seen him,” Adam recalled.

“Although everyone commented that he was on his phone more than he would usually be, although I can’t say I noticed this.”

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Tributes left following the crashTributes left following the crash

Jordan had one Corona beer about 11pm, and at around 1.30am went to buy a kebab from Calne, and more beer from a garage.

Adam’s statement added: “We were aware he had two bottles of Corona with his meal.

“Around 2.30pm he dropped me and my girlfriend at my home. He had offered to take us for a drive but we didn’t want to. I texted him to say thank you for the night but didn’t get a reply.”

The court also heard that his friends had noticed that Jordan could have one or two drinks and that it “didn’t seem to affect him in any way”.

Jordan had not taken any drugs the evening of the crash and his friends had no concerns about the state of his mental health.

Megan Lloyd, walking home on the pavement with a friend from a pub in Chippenham, had seen Jordan’s car pass on London Road, and estimated it had been going 60mph in a 30mph zone.

“The roads were extremely quiet as far as traffic was concerned,” she said in her statement.

“From behind I heard the sound of loud music. Within a few seconds a white VW Polo passed us.”

She added: “The road has a 30mph limit but I would estimate the car was driving about 60mph.”

Two police cars later passed Megan and her friend with flashing blue lights.

They were racing to the scene of the crash at Old Derry Hill, where a lorry driver and taxi driver had already attempted to rescue the car’s occupants. 

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Huseyin ‘Reg’ Lim had a cab full of four young men returning to Calne from a night out in Chippenham in the early hours of Sunday morning when they saw the flames just off the roadHuseyin ‘Reg’ Lim had a cab full of four young men returning to Calne from a night out in Chippenham in the early hours of Sunday morning when they saw the flames just off the road

The occupants of the house had already rushed out the house and had been told to keep back in case the car exploded.

Wiltshire Police road traffic investigator Steven Fair had analysed CCTV of Jordan’s driving leading up to the crash, to measure not only Jordan’s speed but also his standard of driving.

Jordan had been seen on camera driving through Chippenham town centre earlier in the night, where he stopped briefly at E11even's nightclub.

He said the driving was unremarkable.

“It was normal driving around the town centre and he was indicating, braking where necessary.”

But the last 20 seconds of the CCTV captured on the vehicle showed the car start to speed in excess of 30mph, he added.

Mr Fair, who arrived on scene at 5am, also explained there was no chance that any of the occupants of the car could have swapped seats, and he said by his evidence he was confident Jordan was driving when the crash took place.

The main cause of the crash was excess speed when Jordan approached the left hand bend near Old Derry Hill.

Investigations had also been carried out on the car, and it was found that no evidence to suggest here had been a mechanical defect that could have caused the car to deviate off the road with such force.

Mr Singleton ruled that the cause of death for Jordan Rawlings would be noted as road traffic collision, and that it would not be appropriate to have put ‘accident’.

He died as a result of his head injuries sustained in the crash.

He stated that Jordan had been driving above the legal limit and at excess speed at his time of death.

“Jordan attempted to negotiate a left hand bend, the car has left the carriageway to the off side and into the garden of 1 Old Derry hill, Wiltshire,” he added.

Andrew Rawlings, on behalf of the family, also provided a statement that was read out before the court.

“My son Jordan William Rawlings was born on the 15 February 2000 at the RUH hospital Bath, he went to what was the John Bentley School in Calne”, it said.

“After his A levels he didn’t know what he wanted to do so got a job working at Tesco in Calne where he blossomed and became a lot more confident.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Jordan's funeral was held in SeptemberJordan's funeral was held in September

“He was a happy quiet laidback youngster, always smiling, as he grew older he got a very close group pf friends and enjoyed being with them, laughing and joking.

“When he started working at Tesco his confidence grew and he developed into a happy polite confident young man with a great sense of humour.”

Jordan had been driving for three years and his car was described as “his pride and joy.”

The family statement continued there was “no question” of Jordan not saying yes when his friends asked him for a lift home, since he was out and about anyway.

The coroner said he would like to pass onto Jordan's family and friends that he sincerely was very sorry for their loss.

Efforts of bystanders

The inquest also again heard of the brave bystanders who tried to help. 

Those in the house where the car crashed, where they had two friends staying, had rushed after the windows blew in and they heard an explosion-like noise.

Lorry driver Darren Hyde had been passing, and initially questioned why a bonfire would be lit so late on.

He stopped his lorry to move something out the middle of the road, and realised it was a wheel.

It was only then he realised the fire he saw was in fact the car that had left the road.

Around this time, a taxi had also stopped and its passengers and driver leaped out to approach the fire.

They tried in vain to reach the car’s occupants through the flames, with one darting through a hedge and paving a route for the others.

One passenger in the taxi said he had never felt heat like it before and that it was decided the flames were too strong too approach.

A police officer and the passenger had tried to extinguish the flames with fire extinguisher but had little effect and the officer said “we can’t do anything, we need to go.”

Constable David Turner, who had been based at Chippenham, said in his statement that the flames had stretched above the height of the house once he had arrived.

The HGV lorry and taxi were both parked near the property and the lorry driver, who had previously worked in the fire service, had urged everyone to stay back.

There had been fears the car may explode or that flames could spread to the neighbouring property.

“The scene was quite chaotic, you could see various people moving along in the darkness, and I could see from the flicker of the flames”, said Constable Turner.

What is an inquest?

An inquest is an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding a death. The purpose of the inquest is to find out who the deceased person was and how, when and where they died and to provide the details needed for their death to be registered.

Last week, an inquest was held into the deaths of Matthew Parke, Corey Owen and Ryan Nelson.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald:

Coroner Ian Singleton said that while there was negligence in the duty of care to passengers, and that the driver, Jordan Rawlings, was over the drink-drive limit and speeding at around 120mph, he did not consider his actions to be "truly,exceptionally bad."

The findings were published here.