Seatbelt would have saved young Bristol mum killed in crash

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By Bedminster People | Saturday, October 31, 2009, 07:00

A young mum who died when she lost control of her car and crashed in Bedminster was more than twice the legal drink drive limit.

Donna Mitchell, 26, was killed in the early hours of April 5 after her speeding MG Rover collided with a wall near the junction of Bedminster Down and Winterstoke Road.

Neither Miss Mitchell nor her passenger, Zoe Robson, were wearing seatbelts, and were thrown from the car.

Despite being treated at the scene by passers-by and paramedics, Miss Mitchell was pronounced dead at Frenchay Hospital later that day.

She left behind an eight-year-old daughter, Chloe, and her fiance, Chris "Dodge" Rawlings.

Yesterday her parents, Vinny and Don, and her elder brother Lee went to Flax Bourton Coroner's Court for the inquest into her death.

The court heard that Miss Mitchell could have been saved if she had been wearing her seatbelt, and her being over the drink drive limit and the speed she drove at contributed to the crash.

Witnesses said she had also been driving at speeds estimated to be up to 90mph before the accident, and drove through red traffic lights.

The court heard that Miss Mitchell, who lived in Knowle, went to Miss Robson's house on the evening of April 4 to get ready for a night out.

The two women drank a small bottle of white wine before Miss Mitchell, a home care worker for the elderly, drove them to Weston-super-Mare at 9.30pm.

The pair had two pints of lager and lime each, neither of which Miss Mitchell finished, before they returned to Bristol later that night.

In a statement to police, Ms Robson, 21, described her lifelong friend as a "feisty driver, certainly not slow".

She also said the two were dancing in their seats and singing along to music.

Speaking from the witness box, Sergeant Leona Nash, of Avon and Somerset police's collision investigation unit, said the two women drove back from Weston along the A38.

They passed a number of cars on their journey, including the Ford Fiesta of Gregory McQuaid, who said the red MGZR Rover passed him at 85-90mph.

His girlfriend, Shellane Kinman, who was in the car with him, said that as they approached Bedminster Down she saw Miss Mitchell's car overtake a taxi in front of them, lose control and nearly crash into a traffic island.

Other witnesses said they saw the car being driven "recklessly", doing speeds of up to 60mph in a 40mph zone, and going through red traffic lights.

As Miss Mitchell reached the corner of Winterstoke Road and Bedminster Down at 12.40am, she lost control of her car on a bend near the Miners Arms pub and hit a wall. As the car flew through the air the two women were thrown through the passenger door window and on to the road.

Passers-by – many of whom Miss Mitchell had passed on her journey – stopped to help, but she was unconscious and not moving.

Miss Robson was left dazed and grazed, with friction burns. Sergeant Nash told the court she couldn't estimate how fast the car was travelling when it crashed. She added that apart from an over-inflated tyre, the car had no other defects.

The court heard that Miss Mitchell had 173mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, just over twice the legal limit.

She also had traces of morphine in her blood, but the court heard this could have come from painkillers and would have had little effect on her.

Sergeant Nash said: "Through speed and intoxication, she lost control of her car as it negotiated a right-hand bend and hit a wall. Had they been wearing seatbelts it is highly unlikely they would have been expelled from the car, and in my opinion they would have received minor or slight injuries."

Returning a verdict of accidental death, assistant deputy coroner Terence Moore said: "There is no suggestion of the speed, but it is undoubtedly a factor here. The other factor related to the collision was undoubtedly alcohol."

In a statement, her family said: "Donna has left behind a loving family, a devastated little girl, her heartbroken brother, partner and niece and nephew.

"Donna was a gorgeous girl with a tremendous personality who lit up the room and touched the lives of all who met her. She was a fun-loving girl who loved her family and friends."

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