Warm words have been shared about a young couple who tragically died when the van they were travelling in span out of control and hit a tree earlier this year.
Shaun Donaghy, 22, and Amy Novkovic, 27, who sadly lost their lives while driving home on the Eastbourne Road in Uckfield, were described by friends as ‘absolutely wonderful, bubbly characters’.
Mr Donaghy, a blacksmith at Glynde Forge, and Ms Novkovic, a chef, had been at the Highlands Inn with friends on Sunday March 12 when the white Peugeot van they were in rolled onto its side and collided with a tree.
Gary Roach, who was at the pub with the couple, said Mr Donaghy had drunk between five and six pints of Heineken - though he was unable to be sure whether some had been shandies.
Cyclist John Wallingford said he had seen the van shaking and rocking as it passed him, crossing the centre line of the rural road and returning to the correct side, on the evening of the crash.
Mr Wallingford told the coroner he heard shouting and screaming coming from the van but thought the passengers were ‘just messing around’.
Witness Christa Pearce-Altendorff said she was walking her dog with friends when she saw the van go past and heard the sound of it fishtailing before it crashed.
Ms Pearce-Altendorff told the court she ran to the scene and called 999. Deputy Coroner Kate Palmer said she was sure both Ms Pearce-Altendorff and the emergency services did their best to assist the couple.
Police constable Andrew Slark, who led the investigation into the collision, said the van had hit a verge and swerved before rolling onto its side when its roof collided with the tree.
Both Mr Donaghy and Ms Novkovic died at the scene of the collision, a coroner’s court heard at Eastbourne Town Hall yesterday (September 28).
The coroner offered the families her condolences and said she hoped they could take some comfort in the fact neither of the victims would have suffered.
Police constable Slark underlined the dangers of drinking and driving at the inquest. He said: “Alcohol has a profound effect on driving skills.”
He also said the speed at which the van was being driven around the bend and the under-inflated tyres of Mr Donaghy’s van may have contributed to the incident.
In the inquest Ms Novkovic’s father called the couple’s death a tragic accident.
Mr Donaghy studied at Uckfield Community Technology College and later achieved a distinction in his BTech diploma from Plumpton College.
Gary Roach told the inquest the couple had been in good spirits on the day of the collision. “Amy was the happiest I had seen her for a long time,” he said.
Speaking outside the court, Mr Roach, a friend of the couple and colleague of Mr Donaghy, said: “Their deaths are a terrible, terrible loss to family and friends.”