Victim may have been ‘thumbing a lift’

A MAN who died after being hit by a minibus may have been trying to thumb a lift.

Darren Wake was killed as he walked on the A181 Durham to Peterlee road in the early hours.

Mr Wake had been on a night out in Durham City with his non-league football team and was walking home, an inquest heard.

The accident happened at about 1.15am on May 22 last year at Running Waters when Mr Wake, 43, was hit by a taxi minibus driven by Robert Harbottle.

Mr Harbottle told the inquest at Chester-le-Street Magistrates’ Court: “I saw him walking up ahead, as did one of the passengers, who remarked he was there.

“One of them said he had his arm out trying to thumb a lift, but I couldn’t stop anyway because the vehicle is private hire.

“I came out towards the centre of the road to pass him, but perhaps he came out too.”

Mr Harbottle said he stopped, as did another taxi driver.

They could see no immediate sign of Mr Wake, but there was damage to the minibus.

Collision investigator PC Ian Haigh said the minibus was travelling at 47mph in the moments before the crash, and there was no evidence it had skidded or mounted the grass verge.

A post mortem examination found Mr Wake, of South View, Wheatley Hill, died of multiple injuries.

His blood alcohol level was approximately twice the legal limit for driving, which PC Haigh said would adversely affect his decision making and possibly his balance.

North Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Durham Police confirmed after the hearing no further action will be taken against the driver.