Two young parents-to-be were killed in a horrific car crash at a ‘treacherous’ junction with ‘faded’ road markings and where the Give Way sign was ‘turned the wrong way’, an inquest has heard.
Josh Alexander, 21, and Jessica Poole, 18, died when a skip lorry ploughed into their car in Woodchurch, Kent on June 5 last year.
An inquest in Maidstone heard that the couple were on their way to work delivering takeaways to earn extra cash ahead of the birth of their baby boy when the crash happened.
Speaking at the inquest, one police officer said he believed ‘heavily worn’ road markings and a rotated Give Way sign, near the crossroads junction of Plurenden Road and Bethersden Road in Woodchurch, may have been contributing factors in the crash.
PC Simon Masterson, forensic collision investigator at Kent Police, said Josh had failed to recognise he was approaching a junction as he drove west along Plurenden Road.
Jessica Poole, 18, who was thought to be around four months pregnant, died when the white Vauxhall Corsa she and her boyfriend were travelling in smashed into a white lorry in Woodchurch, Kent last June
Jessica and Josh were from Hastings in East Sussex
Josh’s heartbreaking Facebook post from March showed a baby’s onesie with a positive pregnancy test
The crash occurred at a crossroads in Woodchurch, Kent on June 5 last year
Mr Masterson said: ‘The give way sign on Plurenden Road, which was 11 metres from the junction, was rotated by 61 degrees.
‘The road markings were heavily worn in several places. The approach triangle was also worn but discernible.’
The tragic crash took place just months after Josh shared a photo on Facebook of a baby’s onesie with a positive pregnancy test and a scan of their son inside the womb, and excitedly wrote: ‘November 2023. See you then lil one.’
The inquest heard they had been heading to Happy Valley Chinese in Tenterden just before 5pm in Josh’s Corsa where they had taken on shift, Kent Live reported.
Dashcam footage from the skip lorry which was travelling along Bethersden Road shows the Corsa approaching the junction.
PC Masterson said Josh was looking ‘calm’ and ‘in control of the vehicle’ with footage showing the car approached the crossroads at a ‘constant speed.’
Based on the footage, it is thought Josh would have been driving between 50mph and 56mph, within the 60mph limit for the road.
However, prior to the crash, the footage also appeared to show Josh was distracted by his phone for a brief moment.
Emergency services rushed to the scene, where the young couple from Hastings were pronounced dead
Josh (pictured) and Jess’s heartbroken friends and family paid tribute to the two youngsters online
PC Masterson said: ‘I’m confident his arm was stretched out to touch the phone.
‘Josh failed to recognise he was approaching a junction. He interacts with a mobile phone immediately before entering Bethersden Road. His actions suggest he was not aware of the junction ahead.’
The inquest heard that Josh was believed to have been using a sat nav app on his phone, as he had only moved to the area in April. It is not clear which specific app he was using at the time of the crash.
When PC Masterson undertook tests himself at the junction using Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze, all of them failed to give an alert that a crossroads junction was ahead.
PC Masterson also said the front air bags of Josh’s car did not deploy. When asked whether this could have made any difference to the outcome, he answered ‘no.’
Addressing the driver of the skip lorry, PC Masterson said there was ‘nothing he was physically able to do to avoid the collision.’
He added: ‘Josh failed to recognise he was approaching a junction. It is highly likely he was distracted by his mobile phone he is seen interacting with.’
Coroner Katrina Hepburn told the Maidstone hearing: ‘There was nothing to suggest they were travelling at excessive speed.
‘Whilst we speculate about whether or not he saw the sign, or if the mobile phone was in use, I don’t make any findings in relation to this.
‘The crash caused significant and catastrophic injuries and the deaths were due to a road traffic collision.’
Josh’s father Ben Sissens, pictured together, said his son’s death had left him with a ‘void I feel can never be filled’
Josh with his mother Becky Alexander
Coroner Hepburn will now write to KCC’s highways department regarding what improvements have been made at the crossroads.
Heartbroken friends and family paid tribute to the couple, originally from Hastings in East Sussex, after the crash last year.
Josh’s father Ben Sissens said his son’s death had left him with a ‘void I feel can never be filled’.
Speaking last year, he said: ‘You were my first, my everything, my mini me, my heart, my soul and my proudest achievement.
‘Rest now my darling, with your beautiful Jess and your baby boy.’
Speaking after the inquest, Mr Sissens, said: ‘The national speed limit is 60mph but if you’re approaching a junction at that speed with no deceleration or notification, it’s dangerous,’ he said.
‘In plenty of other rural roads there are signs which warn you to reduce speed or rumble strips warning of a hazardous junction.’
Josh’s friend Ben Wheeler wrote online: ‘I have never met someone just as amazing, honest, kind and hardworking as you are.
‘You deserved the world and deserved to be with Jess and your little boy.
‘I hope all three of you are together in a better place. You’ll be forever missed.’
Another friend, Michael Harmer, said: ‘You were a blessing to my life and everyone else’s – your light was radiant and you never failed to bring the best out of everyone.’
Charlie Louise Kent, a friend of Jessica’s, wrote: ‘I am unbelievably lost for words and in complete disbelief.
‘[I am] still wrapping my head around the fact my angel girl is gone, I am absolutely heartbroken.
‘You taught me the meaning of friendship and was and will always be the kindest soul I have ever come across.’