South West Wales

Gareth Roberts inquest: Rally driver's death accidental

The father of a young rally driver killed during a race in Italy says nobody is to blame for the "freak accident".

Gareth Roberts, 24, from Carmarthen, who died in a rally in Sicily in June, has been described as a "rising star" of the sport.

He was the co-driver of a Peugeot 207 which smashed into a crash barrier on a bend. Driver Craig Breen survived.

A verdict of accidental death was recorded at an inquest in Llanelli.

Irishman Mr Breen, 22, who was unhurt, told the hearing: "We were about half way through a run at high speed with fast corners.

"The car understeered and went to the other side of the road and hit a metal barrier.

"When the car came to a rest I asked Gareth if he was OK, but there was no response.

"I could see he was slumped over with blood on his face."

Mr Roberts, a former pupil of Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Carmarthen, died of multiple injuries in the crash on a high-speed section of the 18km (11 mile) Cefalu stage in the annual Targa Florio rally.

The event was cancelled as a mark of respect.

The inquest heard that Roberts was a star in the making following his meteoric rise in the sport and was an "inspirational person" to be around.

The self-employed electrician, who had left school aged 16, was on the verge of turning professional after signing for Peugeot France.

He was due to be unveiled by the French rally team three weeks after the fatal crash.

Pathologist Dr John Murphy said Mr Roberts died of multiple injuries when bars of a crash barrier impacted against the side of his vehicle.

Carmarthenshire coroner Mark Leyton said: "Gareth was a very promising rally driver - it's very tragic his life was brought to an end so early."

'Living his dreams'

Speaking after the hearing, his father Michael - himself a one-time Welsh rally champion - spoke of his son's achievements and urged Breen to keep on winning titles.

"You can't blame the sport and I don't blame Craig," he said.

"It was a freak accident. Fair play to Craig, he has carried a lot on his shoulders and just won the SWRC World Championship [Super 2000 World Rally Championship] again.

"I know Gareth would have wanted him to carry on."

He added: "The hardest thing to accept is I've seen Gareth and Craig come out of horrendous crashes - 10 times worse - and there wasn't a mark on them.

"But he died doing what he loved doing - he was living out his dreams and accepted the risks that came with it."

Mr Roberts won countless motorsport accolades during his career.

Following successes alongside fellow Welshman Elfyn Evans, from Dolgellau, in the Fiesta Sport Trophy series, he teamed up with Breen in 2009.

Twelve months later the pair were crowned Pirelli Star Driver Global Winners as well as steadily working their way up the rankings.

Last year things really began to take off, with them taking the inaugural WRC Academy Cup.

"He loved the adrenaline rush and meeting people more than anything," said his father.

"Gareth had signed professionally for Peugeot France - but in my eyes he had always been a professional."

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