Teacher with cannabis in her system dies after overtaking school bus on bend

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  • 11:12, 10 MAY 2019

A dedicated teacher was killed when she smashed into a van while trying to overtake a school bus.

An inquest heard Gemma Elizabeth Ashling had small amounts of cannabis in her system which may have affected her driving.

The 40-year-old, a teacher at Boston High School in Lincolnshire, died two days after the crash, which happened shortly before 4pm on November 26.

Her Hyundai crashed into a Royal Mail van coming in the opposite direction, Lincolnshire Live reports .

Ms Ashling was described immediately after her death as a "dedicated, enthusiastic, kind and a wonderfully warm-hearted teacher, colleague and friend".

Bus driver Angela Johnson told the inquest that she thought it was a bad spot to overtake, as it was close to the bends and the road conditions were wet.

In a written statement, she said that Ms Ashling's car started to spin as it went into the right-handed bend and crashed into the Royal Mail van.

Elaine Baron-Clarke, who was at the wheel of the van, said that she saw a 'small car' swerve in front of her and hit the front of the van.

Ms Ashling was initially taken to Boston Pilgrim Hospital but was later transferred to Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham, where she died from 'devastating brain injuries' two days later.

Written medical evidence showed that Ms Ashling had been suffering from depression and insomnia and had been on long-term anti-depressants and had had long-standing fleeting suicidal thoughts – although there was no suggestion this had anything to do with the incident.

A toxicology report also indicated that she had therapeutic levels of prescribed drugs in her system but also had cannabis levels indicating recent use which 'may have impaired her driving ability'.

However, the inquest was told it was 'speculative' to link this to the crash.

Her father, John, said his daughter was 'the happiest' he had seen her for a long time and on the day, had left school early to get home for an appointment with an IT engineer.

Collision investigator PC Mark Brown said the evidence showed Ms Ashling had lost control of her car on the bend.

He told he hearing the car had clipped the nearside verge before she over-corrected the car, which went out of control onto the opposite side of the road and hit the van.

The coroner, Timothy Brennan, paid tribute to the driver of the Royal Mail van who, he said, made 'valiant efforts' to avoid the collision.

He said overtaking at that point was perfectly legal.

However, he said it must have been at a significant speed and said Ms Ashling would have had to brake sharply on what was a wet road.

He said the cause of the collision was her loss of control after clipping the kerb.

The coroner said that 'quite high levels of cannabis' had adverse effects on driving, slowed down reaction times and increased risk-taking, but he emphasised that what influence cannabis had on her driving was 'speculative'.

Recording a verdict of death from a road traffic collision, the coroner said that 'in difficult driving conditions, no matter how busy your life, it is simply not worth the risk'.

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