One of the drivers in a head-on crash in which two people were killed was seen repeatedly veering across the road moments before the collision.

John Louden and Pauline Ward died after the accident on the A143 at Belton, near Gorleston, on May 5, 2023.

They had previously been married but stayed friends after they separated 12 years ago and were with their new partners heading for a weekend minibreak together at a nearby Airbnb when the crash happened.

An inquest into Mrs Ward's death, held this week at the Norfolk Coroner's Court, heard that Mr Louden was driving the group in a grey Vauxhall Mokka car.

He was seen by several witnesses veering onto the other side of the road “on at least two occasions” including in the moments before his car crashed into a blue Mercedes C-Class towing a trailer containing a Range Rover, which was heading the opposite way.

A police investigation into the accident - which happened shortly after 2pm near Cherry Lane Garden Centre - considered whether Mr Louden had been experiencing so-called 'micro sleeps' just before the accident.

An investigation report by PC Lee Smart cited a document, ‘Falling Asleep at the Wheel’, by Professor Jim Horne of Loughborough University's Sleep Research Centre, which focused on sleep-related crashes.

It explained that falling asleep at the wheel culminates in a series of micro sleeps where "the eyes are unseeing, the brain is in light sleep, steering will cease, and the vehicle may drift”. 

Eastern Daily Press: Pauline and her partner Richard Leonard

However, in his summing up of the evidence, assistant coroner for Norfolk Christopher Leach, said: "On the balance of probabilities, I am satisfied that there is insufficient evidence for me to conclude that ['micro sleeps'] was the cause of collision. 

“There is also insufficient evidence for me to conclude that a medical illness or medical episode caused Mr Louden to lose control of the vehicle he was driving.” 

Several witnesses described the shocking moment of the horror crash, revealing how they had “heard a bang” before seeing “steam coming from the bonnet of the car.” 

Eastern Daily Press: Pauline (right) with her daughters Kellie Nash (middle) and Terri O’Brien (left)

After the crash, Mrs Ward, 74, from Eye, Suffolk, was cut free from the back of the car and taken by ambulance to the James Paget Hospital

She suffered significant injuries, including a major haemorrhage and injuries likely to have left her paralysed, and died three days later on May 8. 

Mr Louden died at Queen’s Hospital in Romford, London, 13 weeks later.Eastern Daily Press: Pauline loved dancing to rock'n'roll

The hearing was told Mrs Ward, a retired carer, had been on her way to an Airbnb for a weekend away with her partner, Richard Leonard, and Mr Louden and his partner Janet Scott, when the crash happened. 

They had been minutes away from their accommodation. 

The medical cause of Mrs Ward’s death was multiple traumatic injuries due to a road traffic collision. 

Mr Leach concluded that the mother-of-three and grandmother died because of a “road traffic collision.” 

Following her death, her grandson Jake Prudhomme-Nash paid tribute to her.

He said: “Nan always had a beaming smile on her face. I think that's what people will remember about her, that, and her infectious laugh 

"I think people were drawn to her, she just loved company. 

"Her door was always open to people and there were always people round. She'd do anything for anyone." 

Mrs Ward moved to Eye about five years ago to be closer to her daughters.

She fell in love with the East Anglian countryside and soon became a pillar of the community. 

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