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Driver may have blacked out out before fatal collision

PUBLISHED: 07:41 02 September 2009 | UPDATED: 11:50 06 July 2010

Hayley Mace

A driver suffering from hot flushes may have blacked out just moments before colliding with an oncoming car, an inquest heard yesterday.

Ben Whelan, 19, was killed when his Rover Metro was in collision with a Kia people carrier on the A12 at Kessingland, south of Lowestoft, in January 2006.

A driver suffering from hot flushes may have blacked out just moments before colliding with an oncoming car, an inquest heard yesterday.

Ben Whelan, 19, was killed when his Rover Metro was in collision with a Kia people carrier on the A12 at Kessingland, south of Lowestoft, in January 2006.

An inquest held in Lowestoft yesterday heard that Christine Fair, the driver of the Kia, was travelling to Lowestoft from Ipswich when she started to feel hot and wound down her car windows for some fresh air.

Witnesses who were driving along the A12 on the afternoon of January 19, 2006, said that as Mrs Fair's car approached the single carriageway stretch of road leading up to the Kessingland roundabout, the Kia suddenly veered from left to right.

It ended up on the wrong side of the road, did not brake and collided with the red Metro being driven by Mr Whelan, from Benacre, south of Kessingland.

The Lowestoft College student was pronounced dead at the scene.

The inquest heard that two days before the crash, Mrs Fair had visited her doctor because the menopausal symptoms she had been suffering were getting worse and she was prescribed a course of hormone replacement therapy.

Mrs Fair, of Carlton Colville, Lowestoft, said she did not remember the impact because she had blacked out shortly before the crash. “I felt very hot. I had opened the windows and turned the cold air blower on and normally that would alleviate the symptoms but it didn't seem to…”

Giving evidence at the inquest, retired consultant gynaecologist Gareth Thomas said that although blacking out was a very rare reaction to symptoms of the menopause, it was possible that Mrs Fair had lost consciousness while driving because her body's natural reactions to a hot flush may have been affected by the prescription drugs she was taking to control high blood pressure.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Suffolk coroner Peter Dean said: “What seems to have happened here clearly was a terrible road traffic accident.”

It is understood that it has taken more than three years to bring the hearing to an inquest because of legal discussions and investigations by the Crown Prosecution Service and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

In a statement read out at the inquest, Mr Whelan's mother Michelle Sharman paid tribute to her “gorgeous, curly-haired boy.”

She said: “We will never get over his death. There will be no closure. We are completely heartbroken and devastated.”

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