A lorry driver who died when his HGV drifted off a motorway and hit a barrier and a tree may have fallen asleep after taking strong painkillers, an inquest heard.
Father-of-two David Smith, aged 37, of Russells Hall Road, Dudley, was driving on the M5 near Gloucester in the early hours of June 1 last year when he crashed.
There was evidence that Mr Smith had taken strong painkillers, which could cause drowsiness, for a serious back complaint in the 24 hours before his death, the inquest in Gloucester heard.
His wife Emma said in a statement, he was a “cheeky, bubbly and laid-back man” who lived for his family, loved football and enjoyed a drink at weekends. He worked nights as a driver for City Link and was a fit and healthy man until January 2012, when he developed back and leg pain.
Mrs Smith said he did not drink during the working week and his colleagues said that he had been in “top form” on the night of his death.
In a statement, his GP, Dr Stephen Cartwright said Mr Smith had been prescribed co-codamol painkillers in January 2012 but later asked for stronger medication. On May 8, he was prescribed Tramadol for weekend use only and was advised not to take them before driving, Dr Cartwright said. Toxicological analysis showed low levels of Tramadol in Mr Smith’s system, meaning it was likely he had taken the medication more recently than the previous weekend.
A post mortem examination by pathologist Dr Linmarie Ludeman revealed that Mr Smith died of head and other multiple injuries. The inquest was told that other drivers on the motorway saw Mr Smith’s lorry travel in a straight line as the road curved to the right. No brake lights were spotted as his lorry drifted off the carriageway, struck a barrier and then hit a tree. Police collision investigator Pc Darren Williams said evidence suggested it was a sleep-related accident.
Gloucestershire deputy coroner David Dooley said although Mr Smith had been told not to take Tramadol during the working week, the toxicology tests showed he had done so within 24 hours before the accident. Recording a verdict of accidental death, he said: “We can only assume that its potential for causing drowsiness would have been enhanced by any possible disruption to his sleep pattern, due to pain levels.”