The parents of a maintenance engineer who was killed in a road accident after the driver fell asleep has urged motorists to take a break when tired.
Elliot Harding, 24, had been attending an Austrian music festival with his girlfriend Bianca Leuschner when he began the 170-mile trip to take her home to Zell Am See.
Elliot, from Woolston, Southampton, decided to drive the first part of the journey from the festival site in Graz to Schladming where the couple decided to switch before heading onto Zeal AM See. However tragedy struck when Bianca fell asleep at the wheel just 15 minutes into her leg of the journey; crashing the car into a metal railing which pierced the car, killing Elliot instantly.
Following an Inquest held on Friday, which gave a verdict of road traffic collision, his heartbroken father Ian Harding issued a plea to motorists to take more rest breaks when driving long distances. He said, “Elliot was a very bright young man with his whole life ahead of him so to lose him has been more devastating than is possibly imaginable.
“He did the right thing by admitting he was getting tired and asked if Bianca would take over the driving but sadly she should have told him she needed a rest as she was too tired to drive. I would urge anyone who is driving to take regular breaks and if you do feel tired please stop and have a rest. No appointment is worth losing your life over.”
Elliot, who has five siblings, flew from Stansted airport in August 2011 to Munich where he was picked up by his girlfriend Bianca. The couple then made the 170-mile trip to a music festival in Graz, Austria where they camped over night before making the return trip to Zeal AM See early the next morning.
Elliot, who worked as a maintenance engineer at Esso Exxon Mobil, drove the car the 110-mile journey from Graz to Schladming before he began to tire and swapped with Bianca who took over driving duties. Only 15 minutes after leaving Bianca fell asleep at the wheel, crashing the car into a metal bridge. Tragically the metal railing smashed through the car windscreen and into Elliot’s skull, killing him instantly.
Bianca Leuschner was arrested and later found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving. She received a 2,080 euro fine.
Mr Harding said, “We feel that Bianca should have had a rest if she felt tired and her poor judgment has cost my son his life. Elliot was a real family man. He always enjoyed family get-togethers and would be the first to dig out the barbecue and invite everyone to our home.
“He was so close to us all but was also a real adventurer. He was always planning his next trip or challenge such a running marathons, sky diving or bungee jumping. He embraced life and was always looking to push himself. We used to worry about him doing risky things and yet he died while simply attending a music festival.
He added, “I just hope that anyone who reads this takes a few seconds to think about the impact driving when tired can have. It has ruined all of our lives and taken away from us a wonderful young man.”
The family are now taking civil action against driver Bianca Leuschner’s insurers claiming negligence behind the wheel was the primary cause of their son’s death.
Slater and Gordon Personal Injury Lawyer, who is representing the family said, “This is a terrible and avoidable incident which has resulted in a talented and adventurous young man needlessly losing his life and leaving his loving family heartbroken.
“This case highlights the importance of getting adequate rest before embarking on a long journey. It's vital that motorists are alert when they are behind the wheel so if you are feeling drowsy you should stop and have a rest until you feel you are okay to drive again.
“Driving when tired not only risks the life of the motorist but also their passengers and other people on the road. It simply isn’t worth the risk just to get to your destination that little bit sooner.”
Slater and Gordon Lawyers have offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Merseyside, Sheffield, Halifax, Newcastle, Wakefield, Cambridge & meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire.