A man who drowned in a river after he became trapped under a police car that had been following him was nearly twice the drink drive limit at the time, an inquest has been told.
Raymond Robinson, of Arosa Crescent in north Belfast, had also been sniffing lighter fluid before he was involved in the accident that claimed his life on April 24, 2004, the court was told yesterday.
The first day of the inquest into his death heard that a post mortem carried out on the 19-year-old unemployed labourer found the presence of two gases found in lighter fluid, and that he had a blood-alcohol reading of 154mg per 100mg of blood.
The court heard that at 1.23am on April 24, a taxi driver reported to police that he had seen a Seat Toledo leaving a petrol forecourt being driven erratically. The occupants of the vehicle were alleged to have been sniffing lighter fluid.
The report was put out over the PSNI radio and subsequently two police cars, with blue lights flashing and sirens sounding, began to a follow a white Seat Toledo, Belfast coroner Brian Sherrard told the court.
Outlining the case to the jury of five women and four men, Mr Sherrard explained that one of the PSNI cars, driven by Constable John Bull, followed the Toledo to an area known as The Glen in Belfast after he saw it travelling through red lights on the Shore Road. Mr Robinson abandoned the car and disappeared from sight. The car being driven by Constable Bull then drove off a river bank into Threemilewater, and when the officers got out of their vehicle they discovered the teenager trapped underneath the car. Despite frantic efforts to free him, he died at the scene.
Dr Peter Ingram, the pathologist who carried out the post mortem, said he died from fresh water drowning.
Fractures to the skull, pelvis and ribs which he suffered were all survivable, he added.
The inquest, at Laganside Magistrate’s Court, was shown a video of the route taken by the car driven by Mr Robinson, as well as the scene of the accident.
Damien Coll, a senior scientific officer with Forensic Science Northern Ireland, who completed a report into the incident, said he believed the police car was travelling between 13 and 16mph at the time of the accident.