Coroner rejects claims Ryan Mills deliberately crashed into lorry
A coroner has dismissed allegations that a 21-year-old joiner deliberately crashed into a lorry as he made his way to deliver a children's climbing frame.
Co Antrim man Ryan Mills died after the vehicle he was driving hit an oncoming HGV on the Moira Road near Glenavy in June last year.
Belfast Coroner's Court heard how Mr Mills, from Lisburn, was travelling in a line of cars in the direction of Nutts Corner when he suddenly pulled out into the path of the oncoming lorry and failed to make any attempts to avoid it.
He was found dead at the scene and had suffered severe brain and facial injuries.
Witnesses at yesterday's inquest described their horror at seeing his white Suzuki driving straight for the lorry.
The lorry's driver, Wayne Jewell, said the young man was going "really fast" towards him. "It seemed as if he was accelerating, and I braced myself for the impact," he told the court.
"I turned left sharply and most of the cab was on the hard shoulder by the time of the impact. He had room to pass me and the other cars. It was a very strange scenario. The more that I turned in, the more he was turning towards me."
Maureen Davidson, who was travelling behind Mr Jewell, said in her testimony that she could see Mr Mills' face moments before the crash. "I saw the driver sitting bolt upright in the seat," she added. "There was no expression on his face - it was as if he was on a mission."
Upon hearing this, the deceased's mother, Gwen Mills, shouted out "no" from the public gallery and subsequently left the court room.
Mrs Davidson continued: "I know he should not have been there. It was the strangest situation I have ever been in or want to be in. I knew there was going to be an accident.
"That sight will never leave me. His face will never leave me."
Marian Annett, a retired nurse, rushed to Mr Mills' side after the crash to try and administer emergency first aid.
"I could see his head and there was a trickle of blood coming from his left ear," she told the hearing.
"I checked for a pulse, but could not find one. I knew he was dead."
She also explained that the incident happened very suddenly and was "very unexpected" and that the victim had made "no attempt" to avoid the lorry.
Following the collision, a forensic scientist and a police constable examined the vehicle, but found no defects in it that could explain the crash.
Professor Jack Crane, the state pathologist, said that Ryan suffered extensive fractures to his skull as well as fractures to his nose, jaw and spine as well as a lacerated liver.
In a statement read out to court, Mrs Mills rejected claims Ryan took his own life and said she did not see anything change in his behaviour in the weeks leading up to his death.
His girlfriend of five years, Lauren McLarnon, said they had a happy relationship and had been talking about buying a house together the night before his death.
She also dismissed claims that he took his own life.
"I would know if something was wrong - he was in great form and was happy," she told the inquest into Mr Mills' death.
Gavin Dunn, a forensic scientist, said that following an examination of the scene, one of the possible explanations was that the victim could have failed to conduct adequate steering for the bend the cars were on.
In her findings, coroner Suzanne Anderson said she was satisfied it was not a deliberate act.
"There was no intention to take his own life," she added. "He had briefly gone into a daze and failed to steer his vehicle around the bend."