A YOUNG father who died in a car accident in the early hours of New Year’s Day was twice the drink-drive limit, an inquest heard.

Matthew James Longstaff was killed after losing control of his car on the outskirts of Darlington and hitting an elderly couple's vehicle.

Traces of cannabis and cocaine were found in the 21-year-old's bloodstream and checks revealed he had never passed a driving test.

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Mr Longstaff, known as Matty, was driving home to Bishop Auckland after visiting his daughter in Middleton-St-George when he failed to negotiate a bend on Neasham Road, on the edge of Neasham Covert.

His Ford Focus skidded into an oncoming Dacia Duster Laureate whose occupants Brian and Valerie Thompson, both in their 70s, survived.

Mr Thompson told the inquest he saw the car’s lights and realised it was on the wrong side of the road so slowed and pulled over to try to avoid it.

“I said 'brace yourself Val he is going to hit us'," he told the Crook inquest.

“I was pulled up or just about by then. I couldn’t get out of his way at all."

He said his car was pushed into a hedgerow and, mistaking radiator steam for smoke, he feared it would catch fire. Once he and his wife were freed he fainted with shock.

John Appleyard, who saw the crash from his garden, said Mr Longstaff clearly tried to correct his car but was unable to.

He said: “It hit at quite some speed.”

Mr Appleyard ran to both vehicles but was unable to open the doors so rang the emergency services.

Coroner Andrew Tweddle said a post mortem showed Mr Longstaff died of traumatic injuries including a fractured skull.

Alcohol, at more than twice the drink-drive limit, cannabis and cocaine were found in his blood and a police investigation revealed Mr Longstaff had never passed a driving test.

PC Michael Baxter, of Cleveland and Durham specialist collision investigation unit, said it was possible Mr Longstaff was exceeding the 60mph speed limit and that the drink and drugs would ‘without doubt’ have impaired his reaction times and driving ability.

Mr Tweddle concluded Mr Longstaff died as a result of an accident.

Mr Longstaff lived with his mother Elizabeth Longstaff at Ravensworth Road, Bishop Auckland, at the time but was originally from the town’s Woodhouse Close Estate.

Family friend Bernice Robinson said: “We know he made mistakes, as we all do, but he paid the price for it.

“He was one in a million, everybody who knew him in the Bishop Auckland area loved him.”