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Son of Levellers drummer may have been confused after Italy trip, inquest told

Alfie’s family released a statement describing their son as a ‘bright, intelligent and popular boy’.

The teenage son of the drummer from The Levellers may have crossed in front of a bus because he looked the wrong way following a holiday to Italy, his father told an inquest into his death.

Charlie Heather’s son Alfie Harbord, who had been drinking, was involved in the crash on Brighton seafront at 12.45am on February 24.

Coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley told the inquest at Brighton and Hove Coroner’s Court that the 15-year-old had been on a “fun night out” with a friend.

Miss Hamilton-Deeley described how Alfie had been walking home with the friend along Marine Parade when the teenager suddenly ran across the road at a crossing, having not seen the bus approaching at the speed limit of 30mph.

Mr Heather told the inquest that his son might have become confused over the direction of the traffic following his recent holiday.

He said: “As a musician, I work abroad a lot and it’s an easy mistake to make. He obviously saw there was no traffic and thought it was clear but he wasn’t looking the right way.”

Miss Hamilton-Deeley said that a post-mortem examination showed he died of “catastrophic head injuries”, and a toxicology report showed he had 242 mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood.

She said that the “high level of alcohol” would have affected his judgment.

The coroner said that the friend’s family had been under the impression that Alfie had his parents’ consent to have a single drink.

Mr Heather said: “We didn’t allow or give any permission for Alfie to have alcohol.”

Describing the crash, bus driver Nicholas Paul said that he had seen the two boys at the crossing, but did not think they would cross.

He said: “The first sign I got was literally in the corner of my eye and I saw some movement and in a split second I saw Alfie was in front of me and it went blank for me.

“I braked but it was too late and I saw him hit the screen.”

Mr Heather, who shook Mr Paul’s hand, said: “I have no animosity or blame, I am sorry it happened to you and we hope you recover from this awful experience.”

Pc Paul Banks, of Sussex Police, said that Mr Paul had only two seconds to react and take avoiding action, and he could not have prevented the accident.

An ambulance arrived within three minutes of the crash and Alfie, who lived with his parents in the city, was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital where he was pronounced dead a short while later.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Miss Hamilton-Deeley said: “I do not imagine Alfie had any inkling of what he was going to do, I think it was high spirits and the thought of running home on such a beautiful night – but sadly he collided with the bus and I am completely satisfied Mr Paul was acting entirely responsibly.”

Alfie’s family released a statement describing their son as a “bright, intelligent and popular boy”.

His father’s band, which formed in the city in 1988, said in a statement they were “deeply saddened” by the news and it was a “great shock” for the family.

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