Crash which killed doting dad ‘could have been caused when he sneezed’

A doting dad who tragically died in a car crash in Sunderland could have lost control of his vehicle when he sneezed, an inquest heard.

Tom Dixon, 30, from Seaham, died on November 1 following a one-vehicle collision on the A1231 near to Washington Academy.

His black-coloured Citroen DS3 was travelling on the eastbound carriageway when it then left the road, went down the grass verge and collided with trees and fencing before coming to rest in a field.

Emergency services attended the incident but tragically Tom was pronounced dead at the scene.

An inquest into his death on Thursday heard how Tom was talking on the phone through Bluetooth in his car at the time of the crash.

Referring to a police report, Senior Coroner Derek Winter said: “Information confirmed that Tom had been on the telephone on Bluetooth at the time. A witness described the manner of driving and it did not cause the officer any concern.

“He described how Tom’s vehicle veered left towards the road sign.

“The person who had been on the call with Tom indicates that there was nothing out of the ordinary. Tom said: ‘Two secs’ and then they heard a sound like a sneeze followed by Tom screaming and lots of banging and crashing.”

The witness then saw Tom’s vehicle hit the kerb and travel through the air before going out of sight.

The inquest heard how a sneeze can last three seconds and eyes could be closed for a second to a second and a half.

Research shows that sneezing and closing your eyes while driving could have “serious consequences” and often leads to an episode that is involuntary and unconscious.

A car travelling at 70mph for three seconds can travel 90 metres, the inquest also heard.

In a police report, it was confirmed that there were no mechanical defects with the vehicle that contributed to the collision and no other vehicles or persons were involved.

Police also said the weather was fine but the road was damp and there were concerns that Tom had aquaplaned but there was no evidence of that.

Tom Dixon with dad Paul
Tom Dixon with dad Paul

A post-mortem revealed the cause of death as a blunt head injury and a toxicology report confirming cocaine was found in his blood.

As a result of the collision, Tom suffered a skull fracture and had fractured bones in both forearms which were consistent with him bracing his arms during the impact.

The coroner then went on to read out the conclusion from a police officer which said: “It’s my opinion that at the time of the collision Tom Dixon had taken cocaine.

“My opinion on the primary cause of the collision is driver error through the influence of cocaine or sneezing which caused a loss of control of the vehicle.”

His heartbroken family previously paid tribute to Tom, who was dad to Marshall and Evelyn.

Tom, who previously worked at British Gas and Nissan before joining DPD, also leaves behind parents Jan and Paul, sister Katie-Jayne, grandparents Audrey and John and niece and goddaughter Ophelia-Jayne.

They said at the time: “Tom was a larger than life character with such a big heart who had time for everyone, his family his friends or a stranger in the street.

“A lovable young man who had a fabulous sense of humour with a loud thunder-like laugh that made everyone smile and boy did he have a smile.

“A giant amongst men who was unbelievably caring to everyone which in these current times in a world that can be unkind he was kind to everyone regardless of who they were or their background.

“He has life long friends a lot from nursery, primary school, senior school, right up to now as an adult. He met new people and made great friends on a regular basis.

“His friends were always loyal and all can see loved him dearly and really were his second family.

Tom Dixon, from Seaham, who has died following a one vehicle collision in Washington
Tom Dixon, from Seaham, who has died following a one vehicle collision in Washington

“He had a passion for the great outdoors, exploring on his bike and took great pleasure in capturing beautiful images with his camera.

“His priority was family, beautiful son to Jan and Paul, protective brother to Katie-Jayne, loving grandson to Audrey and John, and devoted uncle and godfather to Ophelia-Jayne, but no more so than his children Marshall and Evelyn who he adored.

“They were the light of his life, his everything, his world, we as family and friends will ensure that they are aware of what a beautiful soul he was. Our gorgeous, gorgeous boy.”

A Just Giving page was also set up following his sudden death with the community raising almost £6,000.

Senior Coroner Derek Winter concluded that Tom Dixon died as a result of a road traffic collision and said he was “very sad about Tom’s passing”.

Chronicle Live – Sunderland