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Farmer who killed woman in crash had been drinking

By Emily Moulton

A farmer who died in an horrific head-on collision which also claimed the life of a Ballymoney mother was drunk at the time of the crash, an inquest was told yesterday.

Alastair Armstrong was also driving on the wrong side of the Frosses Road — a notorious Co Antrim black spot — when his Mazda 626 crashed into an oncoming vehicle, killing Joan Kerr.

Mrs Kerr’s husband Ian, who was driving their silver Citroen, was seriously injured in the accident. To this day he has no memory of the fatal crash.

Yesterday, during an inquest into both Mr Armstrong and Mrs Kerr’s deaths, the court was told the 45-year-old farmer — who had lost his 12-year-old son Aaron to suicide three-and-half years earlier — had been at a wedding reception at the Fort Royal Inn when he got into his car just before closing and headed down the A26 dual carriageway towards his Ballymoney home.

It is believed that when the dual carriageway became the single lane Frosses Road, Mr Armstrong failed to move onto the correct side.

Several witness told the hearing that on the night of the accident, they saw the farmer’s car driving on the wrong side of the road.

In a statement read out in court, lorry driver David Telford, who was travelling along the Frosses Road towards Ballymena, said he had to swerve onto the grass verge to avoid Mr Armstrong.

“I was coming down the end of the road when I noticed headlights coming towards me, it actually had full beam,” he said. “I had to swerve over on to the verge. He was not stopping, just kept on going.”

Shauna Small, who was the first to stop at the scene of the crash, told the court that she and her three friends were driving down the A26 following a night out when she noticed headlights in her side mirror.

She explained she could not work out what direction the car was coming from until it passed her, and thought it was travelling fast. She said: “He went past me, he was flying.”

Minutes later she arrived at the scene of the accident.

The four women then got out and called for help. Ms Small said all three victims were still alive when they arrived, however Mrs Kerr died a short time later.

“I stayed with her until the doctor said she was dead. Kate kept talking to Mr Kerr so he would not realise his wife had died,” she added. Mr Armstrong also passed away at the scene.

A post-mortem examination revealed Mrs Kerr died from severe bleeding. Mr Armstrong died from multiple injuries sustained in the car crash.

The post-mortem also revealed he had 123mg of alcohol per 100mls of blood, well above the 80mg legal limit.

In his report, state pathologist Professor Jack Crane said this indicated Mr Armstrong would have been “slightly intoxicated”. However, in her summation Coroner Joanne Donnelly said she found the farmer was “intoxicated at the time of collision” and this would have had “a detrimental effect on his ability to drive”.

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