A SCOTLAND under-20 international rugby player was more than twice the legal limit and driving without his seat belt when he died in a car crash last year, an inquest heard yesterday.
• Inquest hear of “promising” rugby career ahead
• Verdict of accidental death recorded
Mitchell Todd, who also played for Nottingham Rugby Club, was found in the car in a field near the village of Normanton-on-the-Wolds in Nottinghamshire last August by a member of the public.
Yesterday, an inquest into his death heard the 21-year-old’s blood-alcohol reading was 172mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. The legal driving limit is 80mg.
Empty bottles of wine and cans of beer were found in the vehicle, the inquest at Nottingham Town Hall heard.
A post-mortem examination confirmed that Todd, who represented Scotland under-20s in last season’s Six Nations and featured in the Junior World Cup, died as a result of a catastrophic brain injury.
Resuming the inquest into the player’s death, assistant deputy coroner Jane Gillespie heard that Todd had drunk excessively after an all-day training event with Nottingham Rugby Club on 14 August before being found in the early hours of the following morning.
Detective Constable Mark Henshaw told the inquest the young player, who was described by his club as an “exceptional talent”, drank free wine and beer at a meal at the end of the training event. He then took a taxi into Nottingham city centre, where he continued to drink beer and spirits with his teammates until 2am.
The rugby club had warned players not to drive after the event but an intoxicated Todd returned to his car.
The officer told the inquest it was not known why Todd, who lived in Coventry, had been driving where the crash happened, as he knew no-one in that area.
Residents described hearing a loud thud at around 3:15am and seeing a small, dark-coloured vehicle travelling at speed.
Todd’s mother, Delia Todd, wiped tears from her eyes as Pc Robert Lloyd, a forensics collision investigator, described the moments before the crash that claimed her son’s life.
The officer told the hearing the Citroen had been travelling over the 40mph speed limit when Todd lost control of his vehicle on a left-hand bend.
He then drove on the wrong side of the road, clipping road signs and trees as he careered across grass verges and kerbs, before failing to take a right-hand bend and crashing through a fence and hedge into a field.
Pc Lloyd told the hearing the car was found to have no defects, but Todd had not been wearing his seat belt.
“If he had been wearing his seat belt, I think there would have been a very great difference to the outcome. He would have been shaken up but would not have sustained the serious injuries which he did,” the officer said.
Summing up the evidence, Miss Gillespie described Todd, who had just finished a degree in sports therapy, as a rugby player with a promising career in front of him.
Recording a verdict of accidental death, the coroner said: “This is a sad, unnecessary and preventable waste of a talented young life and I very much hope that valuable lessons are learnt as a result of this tragedy.
“I find that the combination of intoxication, excess speed and Mitchell’s failure to wear a seat belt resulted in this terrible incident and the catastrophic brain injury suffered by Mitchell, which he simply could not survive.
“Taking into account all of the evidence available to me, my verdict is one of accidental death.”
Todd qualified for Scotland through his Edinburgh-born father and had also represented Scottish Exiles from under-17 to under-20 level. He won ten Scotland under-20 caps and played in the IRB Junior World Championship.
Rob Brierley, the Scottish Rugby Union’s performance development manager for Exiles, said: “Mitch was a quiet, sensitive bloke with a real steely determination, never more evident than on the rugby pitch.
“He was a real athlete, somebody who was late to the game and was developing all the time.”