A VETERAN affected by losing friends on the battlefield was drink-driving when he was killed in a high-speed crash near Calshot, an inquest heard.
Royal Engineers staff sergeant Gareth Carter (40) had completed tours of Iraq and Afghanistan after joining the British Army when he moved to the UK from his native South Africa in 2005.
Winchester Coroners’ Court heard he had attended “numerous” funerals of other comrades killed in both war zones which had, according to his mother Myrna, a “lasting effect” on him.
The inquest was told that on 26th April last year Gareth was driving a Vauxhall Astra south along the B3035 towards Calshot with friend Gavin Martin when he lost control.
The vehicle veered across two lanes after clipping a verge, became airborne and rolled over. Both men, neither of whom was wearing a seat belt, were thrown from the car.
Gareth suffered a severe head injury and died at the scene. Mr Martin also had serious injuries and the inquest heard he could not remember anything of the crash.
Teenager Luke Elliot, an eyewitness, revealed in a statement that he had seen the Astra seconds before the crash being driven at high speed and swerving across the road.
A friend who shared a house with Gareth said in written evidence that he “clearly had a problem” with alcohol and had been drinking on the day he died.
Smashed cider bottles were found among the wreckage of the car, the inquest was told.
Tests after his death revealed he had been two-and-a-half times the drink-drive limit when the accident happened, and a small quantity of cannabis was found in his blood. He was also banned from the roads, having been convicted of driving under the influence of drugs.
The hearing was told Gareth had received counselling from the Army, but the inquest heard that at the time of his death it appeared Gareth had turned to drugs and drink to help him cope with stress.
He had also struggled with the end of his marriage after two years, and the news last year that his father had terminal cancer.
Gareth was from Wimborne but had been living and working in Fawley as a contractor.
His mother told the inquest her son was a “private, proud man” who would have been ashamed of his driving ban. She said the family were unaware of it and that he had always been a slow, careful driver.
Ruling his death an accident, coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp said: “Gareth, like many people who came back from service in Afghanistan and Iraq, found that their lives hadn’t ever quite worked out the way they would have liked.”