Josh Alexander, 21, and his lifeguard girlfriend, Jessica Poole, 18, died in a horror crash with a skip lorry, as inquest heard ‘worn lines’ on the road could have been a contributing factor
A pregnant teen and her boyfriend died in a horror crash after a ‘give way’ sign had been twisted and road markings faded, an inquest has heard.
Personal trainer Josh Alexander, 21, and his lifeguard girlfriend, Jessica Poole, 18, died from their injuries at the scene of the crash at about 5pm on June 5 last year. The collision with the DAF skip lorry occurred at a crossroad junction in Woodchurch, near Ashford in Kent. An inquest heard that “worn lines and the rotated sign” could have been a contributing factor to the young couple’s death.
PC Simon Masterson, a forensic collision investigator at Kent Police told the inquest: “There were no warning signs at Plurenden Road of the crossroads ahead. This could have caused confusion to the driver approaching. The worn lines and the rotated sign could have been a contributing factor.”
The give way sign on Plurenden Road was rotated 61 degrees and road markings were faded in several places, which Mr Alexander had failed to recognise. The couple had been on their way to work at Happy Valley Chinese in Tenterden to earn extra cash ahead of the arrival of their baby boy, who they were “excited” to meet.
During investigations, PC Masterson approached the junction himself using Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze, the most common sat nav apps. All of them failed to give an alert that a crossroads junction was ahead. Referring to this, and the worn markings and rotated sign, it was said that Mr Alexander may not have known he had to give way.
Coroner Katrina Hepburn wrote to Kent County Council (KCC) to see what changes have been made to the junction since the accident before considering whether she will write a “prevention of future deaths” report. The inquests at Oakwood House in Maidstone heard Mr Alexander had moved to East Cross in Tenterden just two months before the crash, and used sat nav apps on his phone for directions while out driving. Mr Alexander was believed to have been using a sat nav app before accidentally driving his Vauxhall Corsa across the junction and into the path of the skip lorry travelling along Bethersden Road.
The lines have now been repainted on the road since the accident, and the give-way sign put back in the correct position. The skip lorry dash camera footage suggested that Mr Alexander was briefly distracted by his phone before he approached the junction, while PC Masterson described him as looking “calm” and “in control of the vehicle.” The footage showed there was “no deceleration” by the Corsa, which approached the crossroad at a “constant speed.”
PC Masterson said there was “nothing the lorry driver was physically able to do to avoid the collision.” No drugs or alcohol were found in the couple’s system. PC Masterson also mentioned the front airbags of Josh’s car did not deploy but the outcome would not have been any different even if it had.
Coroner Katrina Hepburn said: “There was nothing to suggest they were travelling at excessive speed. Whilst we speculate about whether or not he saw the sign, or if the mobile phone was in use, I don’t make any findings in relation to this. The crash caused significant and catastrophic injuries and the deaths were due to a road traffic collision.”
A KCC spokesperson said: “We are aware of the inquests and we await the letter from the coroner. Whenever there is a serious or fatal crash on one of our roads we work with Kent Police, expert engineers and coroners to investigate any causation factors that are identified. Once these are known we carry out any work deemed to be needed to help mitigate a similar incident from happening again. One death on our roads is one too many and we will continue to make sure we keep our roads safe.”
Mr Alexander’s father, Ben Sissens, said he believes the approach to the crossroads is “treacherous”. He commented “The national speed limit is 60 mph but if you’re approaching a junction at that speed with no deceleration or notification, it’s dangerous. In plenty of other rural roads, there are signs which warn you to reduce speed or rumble strips warning of a hazardous junction.” The dad said he wants to put pressure on KCC to improve the safety of Plurenden Road, which he says should not be 60 mph with no warnings of the junction.
Ms Poole’s mother, Aimee Poole, said: “Jessica was beautiful, caring, kind, considerate and funny. She was my best friend and I would choose her company over anyone. The huge gap left in my life is indescribable. We must have told each other we loved each other at least 20 times a day.”
Ms Poole added that her daughter loved animals from a very young age and spent four years devoted to her horse Nellie. “Jessica was stunningly beautiful and would look glamorous even mucking out her horse’s stables. She shined from inside and out. She made me proud every single day. She had so many plans and great times ahead, we were a team. She was my proudest achievement and I miss her every single day.”