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Larkfield secret service worker's heart problem led to fatal crash on A228 at Halling

A father-to-be who worked for the secret service and was described by family as a “gentle giant” suffered a suspected heart attack at the wheel, causing his car to drift in to the way of an oncoming tipper truck.

Larkfield weight lifter Joshua French, 30, never got to meet his baby daughter after he fell unconscious while driving his Ford Focus on the A228, near Halling on December 9, and it smashed into a truck driving the opposite direction, an inquest heard.

Joshua French with his wife Katy French
Joshua French with his wife Katy French

The Abery Drive resident, who had married Katy French that year, earlier told hospital staff he worked for the secret service and his job was given as government officer, during the inquest held in Maidstone on Tuesday.

Assistant coroner Katherine Wood heard that Mr French had a family history of heart disease and also suffered with obstructive sleep apnoea and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Mr French was seen at Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham in August for heart palpitations he had experienced six times in the last few months.

He had his heart monitored and a CT scan was booked for December 20, 11 days after the accident.

DS Barry Goodsell, who led the investigation in to the crash, reviewed dashcam footage belonging to the truck.

Joshua French and wife Katy French
Joshua French and wife Katy French

He said: “The Ford Focus was coming in the opposite direction and slowly but in a very short amount of time drifted from his side of the road straight into the path of the tipper truck.

“I believe the truck was full of mud, it was like hitting a brick wall.

“The truck did what it could to avoid the collision, resulting in it turning on its left hand site and going in to the ditch but it just wasn’t enough.”

Mr French, whose baby daughter was born three weeks later, suffered a traumatic brain injury and skull fractures. He was pronounced dead at the scene. DS Goodsell said the former police officer “probably suffered a heart attack” before the crash.

He added Mr French was taking steroids because he took part in strongman competitions.

'It's very sad because he was such a young man for something like this to happen...'

Ms Wood ruled the 30-year-old had a “cardiac event” while driving. She gave a narrative verdict.

She said: “It’s very sad because he was such a young man for something like this to happen.”

Mr French’s father, Tim Bates, paid tribute to his son after the inquest.

He said: “He was a gentle giant. He put others before himself always.

“He was generous to a tee. He struggled to find his place but he found it with Katy.”

A pathologist gave the cause of death as coronary artery occlusion due to thrombosis and atherosclerosis due to hypercholesterolaemia and ischaemic heart disease.

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