Coroner's warning after US airmen's drink-drive deaths

A coroner yesterday called on US Air Force officials to take extra steps to prevent further drink-drive tragedies after two Suffolk-based airmen died in separate crashes.

A coroner yesterday called on US Air Force officials to take extra steps to prevent further drink-drive tragedies after two Suffolk-based airmen died in separate crashes.

Both victims, who were driving on the wrong side of the road and were over the legal drink-drive limit, had to be identified through dental records because of the severity of their injuries, an inquest heard.

After recording verdicts of accidental death, Greater Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean said the incidents highlighted the dangers faced by American personnel who chose to drive while under the influence of alcohol and could revert back to their natural side of the road.

The inquest at Bury St Edmunds heard how 27-year-old Lieutenant John Biram's car collided head-on with a lorry on the A1304 at Newmarket on September 23.

Lt Biram, stationed at RAF Lakenheath, was declared dead at the scene. He had been in the UK for just two months and was not wearing a seatbelt. Tests afterwards showed that he had almost twice the legal alcohol level for driving in his blood.

The second accident involved 24-year-old aircraft technician Julius Hawkins, who was based at RAF Mildenhall, and drove for 12 miles between Haughley and the west of Bury St Edmunds on the wrong carriageway of the A14 on October 6.

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Mr Hawkins, who was three times over the drink-drive limit, collided head-on with a lorry. His car burst into flames and he was declared dead at the scene.

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