Carpenter crushed under vintage car

A POPULAR widower's adventure of a lifetime ended in tragedy when he was crushed to death beneath his vintage car on an Italian mountainside.

Laurence Cawley

A POPULAR widower's adventure of a lifetime ended in tragedy when he was crushed to death beneath his vintage car on an Italian mountainside.

Peter Mills, a well-known and well-liked carpenter in Bury St Edmunds, was taking part in a vintage car touring event through Europe when the accident happened in July.

An inquest into his death was yesterday told how the 61-year-old, of Rembrandt Gardens in Bury, was at the wheel of his cherished Austin Healey on the SS44 when it collided with the mountainside and flipped over onto its roof at San Leonardo in northern Italy.


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He suffered a catastrophic head fracture and was declared dead by an Italian doctor at the scene of the crash on July 7.

During the inquest it emerged Mr Mills had been looking for somewhere to pull over and take a rest but was unable to find anywhere appropriate along the stretch of high mountain pass, which is a favourite road for vehicle touring enthusiasts.

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His passenger, co-driver and friend Angela Bonner, managed to unlock her seatbelt and clamber to safety.

In a statement presented to the inquest, held in Bury yesterday, Ms Bonner said: “We were trying to catch up with the car tour after we broke down. We were taking it in turns (to drive). He said there was nowhere to stop when we needed to.”

She then found herself with Mr Mills beneath the overturned car. “I managed to undo my seatbelt and get out of the door,” she said. “I and other motorists could not lift the car.”

The inquest heard how the vehicle was more damaged on Mr Mills' side of the Austin Healey than Ms Bonner's.

A post mortem revealed he had died of a fractured skull and multiple other injuries.

The Italian police said Mr Mills was suffering from the effects of tiredness when the crash happened on the way to Merano. Some alcohol was found in Mr Mills' body after his death - though the amount was less than the legal drink drive limit, the inquest heard.

Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean said: “It is clear that the injuries which caused the very sad death of Mr Mills were the result of a road traffic accident. Our thoughts and condolences are very much with his family and friends.”

A verdict of accidental death was recorded.

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