Boston teacher who died after crash had 'quite high levels of cannabis' in her system, inquest is told

Inquest told of teacher's death after crash
Inquest told of teacher's death after crash

A TEACHER who was fatally injured in a traffic collision on her way home from school in Boston last November, had 'quite high levels of cannabis' in her system, an inquest has heard.

Gemma Elizabeth Ashling, 40, of Old Leake but originally from Spalding, a teacher at Boston High School, was described immediately following her death, as 'dedicated, enthusiastic, kind and a wonderfully warm-hearted teacher, colleague and friend'.

She had also taught at Spalding Grammar School and the Sir John Gleed School, now Spalding Academy.

An inquest at Boston heard that Ms Ashling, driving her Hyundai car, overtook a bus on the school run at around 3.50pm on Monday November 26 on the A52 near Leverton.

Bus driver Angela Johnson told the inquest that she thought it was a bad spot to overtake as it was close to the bends and the road conditions were wet.

She said, in a written statement, that Ms Ashling's car started to spin as it went into the right handed bend and crashed into a Royal Mail van coming in the opposite direction.

Driving the Royal Mail van was Elaine Baron-Clarke who said, also in a written statement, that she saw a 'small car' swerve in front of her and hit the front of the van.

Ms Ashling was initially taken to Boston Pilgrim Hospital but was transferred to the Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham, where she died from 'devastating brain injuries' two days later. She never regained consciousness.

Written medical evidence showed that Ms Ashling had been suffering from depression and insomnia and had been on long term anti-depressants and had had long standing fleeting suicidal thoughts.

A toxicology report indicated that she had therapeutic levels of prescribed drugs in her system but also had cannabis levels indicating recent use which 'may have impaired her driving ability'.

Ms Ashling's father, John, said his daughter was 'the happiest' he had seen her for a long time and on the day, had left school early to get home for an appointment with an IT engineer.

Collision investigator, PC Mark Brown said the evidence showed Ms Ashling had lost control of her car on the bend, had clipped the nearside verge, over corrected the car and gone out of control onto the opposite side of the road and hit the van.

The coroner, Timothy Brennan, paid tribute to the driver of the Royal Mail van who, he said, made 'valiant efforts' to avoid the collision.

He said overtaking at that point was perfectly legal, but it must have been at a significant speed and then she had to brake sharply on what was a wet road, but the cause of the collision was her loss of control after clipping the kerb.

He said that 'quite high levels of cannabis' had 'adverse effects on driving, slowed down reaction times and increased risk taking but he emphasised that what influence cannabis had on her driving was 'speculative'.

Recording a verdict of death from a road traffic collision, the coroner said that 'in difficult driving conditions, no matter how busy your life, it is simply not worth the risk'.