The communities of Kiveton Park and Woodhouse are still mourning the loss of Martin Ward,18, Ryan Geddes, 19, and Mason Hall, 19, who all lost their lives in the devastating collision on Kiveton Lane in Rotherham on the afternoon October 24, 2021.
Mason had only celebrated his 19th birthday three days before the crash, and Martin himself only turned 18 a week before. Ryan, meanwhile, was expecting his firstborn son with his girlfriend.
But at an inquest into the deaths at Doncaster Coroner’s Court today (June 16), shocked gasps broke out from the families of the three men as they learned the vehicle, a modified white Ford Fiesta ST, collided with tree at 104mph.
As the driver, Martin’s death was found to be the result of a road traffic collision – while Ryan and Mason’s were ruled as unlawful killing.
Martin had taken the car without permission from mum Sara Jane Smith, the inquest heard, while she was asleep in the hours before the incident. He was reportedly a disqualified provisional driver, and was uninsured to drive the powerful 300 brake horsepower car.
The court heard the statement of a witness who was sitting with friends near to Kiveton Lane when the crash happened at 6.10pm.
She told police: “As we sat chatting, I heard a loud car coming, revving the engine.
"I then heard a massive screech and skid.
"The car came across the road and didn't turn for the bend.
"It looked like it was going around 100mph, faster than I've ever seen a car go on that road."
The collision with the tree was described as an "almighty bang".
"Then, everything went totally silent," continued the witness. "There were no cars or people anywhere. It was just totally silent."
The court heard how in the following minutes, other motorists and residents arrived and dialled 999. Passersby fought to put out a fire that had started in the car and help the boys inside. A fire engine arrived within minutes.
Sadly, all three friends were pronounced dead at the scene.
Martin was the driver at the time of the crash. Several witnesses described how the modified white Ford Fiesta was travelling at extreme speeds in the seconds before the collision.
A report by senior collisions investigator Christopher Slater later found the 18-year-old had been driving at around 104mph when they crashed.
There was no evidence the driver turned before the left hand bend, or applied the brakes.
It was also found Martin had not been wearing a seatbelt.
It was inconclusive if Ryan and Mason were wearing theirs, but senior coroner Nicola Mundy said she found it “unlikely” in the case of front-seat passenger Mason.
The court also heard the statement of Martin’s mother Sara Jane Smith, who died two weeks after the crash. An inquest into her death is yet to conclude.
She told police: “I was the only person insured to drive the car. No one else had access to it and no one else had permission. This included Martin.”
Martin and Mason both came to Sara’s house for lunch before she went upstairs to sleep.
When she woke at around 5.30pm, she saw her car was gone and the keys had been taken from their usual hiding place.
She wrote: “I got a call from [a friend] that my car had been involved in a bad accident.
"I was driven down there. It was there I saw the accident was bad and I learned Martin had been killed.”
Serious collisions investigator PC David Micklethwaite told the coroner that, had Martin lived, he would have likely been charged with causing death by dangerous driving, driving without a licence and driving without insurance.
As a result, and to the shock of the families, Martin’s death was ruled as the result of a road traffic collision, while Ryan and Mason’s death were the result of unlawful killing.
Tributes from the teenagers’ families were read to the court by the coroner’s assistant.
Ryan Geddes, 19, was a painter-decorator and a talented boxer, whose coach and friends believed could have won titles.
A tribute by mum Natalie read: “He and his girlfriend Jessica were really happy together, and they moved into their own home in April 2021. Ryan’s girlfriend became pregnant in June 2021 and they were very excited to become parents.
"Ryan said he wanted a boy and he never got to find out that he had a son, who was born in March 2022.
"He was always a popular boy and he had friends from all over the place. We have always been a close, happy family.”
Mason Hall, 19, had tried his hands at several jobs before finding success as a roofer.
His mum Kathyrn wrote: “Mason had a big circle of friends and was known to be cheeky but polite and well-mannered.
"He and his girlfriend of three years were really happy together and went out together a lot on day trips.
"He was always dressed smart and he took pride in his appearance.
"He was just beginning his future, with a good job and earning good money. He had a good relationship with his girlfriend and they were discussing their future.”
Sara Jane Smith paid tribute to her son following the crash in October.
She told The Star: “Mason was a very close friend of Martin’s. They have basically grown up together and he was like a stepson to me.
“Martin was a lovable little rug and he had the biggest heart out of most people I know.
“They were both such loving kids and will be so sadly missed. This shouldn’t have happened, they were far too young to have this happen. They hadn’t even lived their lives.”
The separate funerals of all three teenagers were attended by hundreds of family and friends.