Shannon Gittings, 17, driver was killed weeks after passing her test when she crashed into a tree as she was texting her boyfriend. Gittings lost control of her Fiat 500, veered into a nearside verge and then swerved across a busy road.
Shannon, from Diss, Norfolk, passed away as she drove home from her job as a systems administrator in Norwich just before 5.30pm on October 3 last year. She was cut free from the wreckage by firefighters and declared dead at the scene.
Today an inquest heard she and boyfriend Henry Smith had been swapping messages in the moments before the crash. Henry gave the police screenshots of iMessages from his mobile phone, showing their last conversation.
The hearing was also shown dashcam footage captured by the car following the teenager, showing her Fiat weaving in the southbound lane before its wheels left the nearside verge. The car then careered across oncoming traffic in the opposite lane on the A140 and hit a tree on its side.
Police crash investigator Andrew Hughes said: “The time of last message sent on iMessage by Miss Gittings is shown as 5.26pm and the last sent by Mr Smith as 5.27pm.
“This appears to coincide with the time on the video that shows when the Fiat began to lose control.”
He added: “It is likely that Miss Gittings was reading or replying to Mr Smith’s message and that provides an explanation why the Fiat’s nearside wheels left the carriageway.
“Although the phone was not examined for internet activity this could explain why the vehicle was wheeling about within its lane as can be seen at various points in the footage prior to the collision.”
The inquest was also told that Miss Gittings’ inexperience as a driver may have caused her to panic causing her car to leave the carriageway. Norfolk area coroner Yvonne Blake recorded a conclusion that she died as a result of a road traffic accident.
It highlights just how quickly you can lose control of your car if you are distracted, particularly by doing something like texting or receiving a message. She said: “This is a very sad death and waste of a young life.
“It does highlight just how quickly you can lose control of your car if you are distracted, particularly by doing something like texting or receiving a message.“If any message comes out of this sad event it is to encourage people to not text, or iMessage, or Snapchat, whilst driving.”
Shannon’s parents Andrew and Lindsey Gittings left an emotional message on her Facebook page after her death, reading:
“My darling beautiful baby girl, you made us the most proud parents in the world. You turned out to be the most amazing young lady who was loved by so many people. We are going to miss you more than you could have ever known.
“Now rest in peace my Angel. We love you more than any words could possibly say and always will xxx.”
Jan Hunt, the head of Diss High School where Shannon had been a pupil, said: “Shannon was a lovely, popular girl who worked hard in her final year at school and achieved good GCSE results. “She was just beginning her career with a bright future ahead of her. The whole school community is devastated at such a tragic loss.”
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