THE death of a builder who was hit by a car as he was returning from New Year celebrations was accidental, a coroner has ruled.

Gary Turner, 44, was run over in the early hours of New Year's Day as he was walking towards his home in Parklands, Coopersale, after a night drinking at the Black Lion pub in Epping with friends.

Taxi driver Martin Hignett told an inquest at Shire Hall, Chelmsford, yesterday, that he had no chance to react before he hit Mr Turner on the B181 Epping Road near the Coopersale junction shortly after 3am.

“I was going to pick up a bunch of girls from Club 195 in Epping,” he said. “I had just come through North Weald to the road in question.”

He said it was not raining and he could see no other vehicles or pedestrians, so he was driving between 50mph and 55mph.

“I saw some movement towards my left,” he added. “It was almost in front of me when I realised it was a man and I had no time to react at all.

“I just about put the brakes on and he disappeared out of my view.”

He leapt out of his Volkswagen people carrier to see what had happened and stopped another car.

Several passers-by, including a trainee midwife, tried to revive Mr Turner, but he died at the scene.

Mr Hignett said he had been using a hands-free mobile phone device while driving, but crash investigator Pc Steve Burton did not believe this had made a difference. 

“In this instance, there is no evidence to suggest the driver has not acted promptly,” he added.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner Tina Harrington said: “I’ve taken into account the fact that there was a high blood alcohol level reading from Mr Turner.

“I’ve taken into account the visibility of a driver driving along that road at that time of the day.

“The driver had no realistic opportunity of avoiding hitting Mr Turner.”

Mr Turner, who lived with his parents, grew up in Epping and attended St John’s School, where classmates remembered him as a good person and a “cheeky chappie.”

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