Mid Wales

Sneezing Gurkha Harry Gurung cleared of death crash

Sergeant Major Harry Gurung Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Sgt Maj Gurung was described as 'honourable' and 'loyal' at Newport Crown Court

A former high-ranking Gurkha has been cleared of killing a couple after suffering a sneezing fit while driving.

Sgt Maj Harry Gurung, 45, sneezed four to five times as he overtook a car at 74mph, on the A40 near Abergavenny.

David and Mary Marshall died when the soldier clipped the back of their Ford Ka, but a common cold expert backed his claim that sneezing could be to blame.

At Newport Crown Court, he was acquitted of causing death by dangerous driving and by careless driving.

Prof Ronald Eccles, director of Britain's Common Cold Centre, said it was "impossible" for people to sneeze with their eyes open.

"A typical sneeze lasts for up to three seconds and both eyes always close during a sneeze," he said.

"If Mr Gurung sneezed four times he would have been distracted by it for up to 12 seconds.

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Mr and Mrs Marshall were driving home from a church barbeque when the crash happened

"His eyes would have been closed for up to four seconds."

He added research had discovered prolonged sneezing is accompanied by a loss of vision and an involuntary closure of the eyes - which may be hazardous when driving.

Sgt Maj Gurung was driving to his barracks in Brecon, Powys, when he started sneezing.

He told police: "I put my right indicator on and as I overtook I began sneezing in rapid succession.

"I was trying to keep my eyes on the road, I was trying all I could to control my vehicle.

"That was the last memory I have, it all happened so quickly."

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Prof Eccles has more than 40 years experience

Mr Marshall, 79, a retired RAF flight sergeant, was killed outright in the crash and his wife, Mary, 73, died four days later.

The couple were driving home from a church barbecue when the crash happened.

Sgt Maj Gurung, of Brecon, is one of the most decorated Gurkhas ever to have served with the British Army.

He saw action in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan where he won bravery wards and was decorated by the US Government.

His commanding officer Maj Stuart Lawrence said: "As an individual he is honourable, loyal and completely at the top of his game. I have complete trust in him."

Judge Daniel Williams said: "There are no more difficult cases than this type. I extend my condolences to the friends and family of Mr and Mrs Marshall."