A young driver who died when his vehicle crashed into a tree on a country lane in Staffordshire was almost twice the drink-drive limit, an inquest heard – as his devastated relatives revealed that thieves had stolen trinkets from his grave.
Jason Lay was pronounced dead at the scene after crashing his father’s white Mitsubishi pick-up truck, in Burton Road, Whittington, near Lichfield, on January 11.
The hearing was told yesterday that the fencing contractor and gardener had been drinking in pubs in the village before tragedy struck shortly after midnight.
At the inquest in Cannock, Staffordshire Police road collision investigator Pc Carl Kelsall said verge marks showed the vehicle had veered to the right side of the carriageway before being steered back to the left. The car then struck a tree and spun round before coming to rest facing the opposite direction.
He said 25-year-old Mr Lay, of Dyott Avenue, Whittington, was not wearing a seatbelt and alcohol in his system measured 152 milligrammes. The legal limit for driving is 80 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood.
Pc Kelsall said: “I would say the alcohol level would be a major factor. This would lead to loss of co-ordination, poor sensory perception, reduced concentration and hazard perception.”
Mr Lay’s father Tony, aged 59, told the hearing it was the first time he had drunk alcohol in six weeks after giving it up.
South Staffordshire Coroner Mr Andrew Haigh said: “A significant factor is the level of alcohol which is likely to have affected Jason’s judgement. I have also been told that he knew the location and that he may have lost concentration.” Mr Haigh recorded a conclusion that Mr Lay died as a result of a road traffic collision.
After the hearing his devastated family revealed that a letter from his sister, Charlotte, aged 19, a photograph and trinkets had been removed from his grave at St Giles churchyard in Whittington.
His father Tony said: “Everything has been taken from his grave, there were flowers, a china horse and carriage, and various items of sentimental value. They were there on June 4 and 5, but by the weekend they had vanished. I spoke to the vicar about it, but no-one at the church had noticed. It’s strange because nothing else in the churchyard is missing, just the things from Jason’s grave.
“There’s no reason for anyone to remove them, it’s very distressing for us.”