THE relatives of a popular Hemsworth dad said their lives had been 'crushed' by van thieves who sparked the chase which led to his death.
An inquest at Wakefield Coroner’s Court on Wednesday, December 30, heard that Christopher Askham, 23, of Lowfield Crescent, died after losing control of his BMW while pursuing a stolen van. His car collided with a Peugeot 206 before smashing head-on into a Nissan Navara on Barnsley Road on May 15 last year.
The mechanic, who was known to family and friends as Tig, had given chase after spotting the vehicle which had been stolen from his dad’s garage in Kinsley that day. After the crash the van was discovered dumped in Brierley.
Following the hearing Mr Askham’s girlfriend, Ashton Reay, 18, said the thieves’ actions meant the couple’s 11-month-old daughter, Isabella Grace, would have to grow up without her dad.
She said: “People should think before they act because they don’t know how many lives it is going to crush. Bella has to grow up without a dad because of someone thinking they can get away with stealing a van. No-one has the right to take that away from her.”
The inquest heard how Mr Askham was most likely to have been driving over the 60mph speed limit and that he was not wearing his seatbelt when the crash happened.
His BMW had two worn tyres and the road was wet due to recent rain.
The driver of the Nissan, 18-year-old Liam Hirst, from Havercroft, was also seriously injured.
Coroner David Hinchliff said: “The evidence I have heard is that Chris was aware his dad’s vehicle had been stolen and had been spotted in the area. He was in pursuit of the van or the perpetrators of the theft. He was seen driving at a fast speed. Chris was approaching a right hand bend and for reasons not entirely clear he has lost control and come into contact with a Peugeot.
“He was still struggling to regain control when he came into contact with the Nissan. It was of a sufficient impact to stop the Nissan and send it twisting backwards before there was a second impact between the two.”
Mr Hinchliff recorded a verdict of accidental death.
A police spokesman confirmed inquiries had been made into the theft of the van, but no arrests had been made.
Mr Askham’s mother Janet criticised the way the police investigation into the theft had been handled.
She said: “They split this up into two crimes even though it was all one event. My son wouldn’t have even been on that road or going that fast if it were not for the thieves.
“His daughter blows kisses to her dad’s pictures. Because of the thieves she has had to spend her first Christmas without her dad.”
Mr Askham’s dad, also called Chris, said: “Janet and I would like to thank all our family and friends for their support.”
A police spokeswoman said: “The officer dealing with the fatal road traffic accident has been in touch with the family regularly to keep them updated with progress since the collision took place last May. A family liaison officer was also initially appointed to this investigation.”