Pubdate: Tue, 8 Jan 2008
Source: Daily Mail (UK)
Copyright: 2008 Associated Newspapers Ltd
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)


A coroner has rebutted claims that ecstasy is not dangerous at the 
inquest of a disqualified driver who was high on the drug when he 
killed himself and a friend in a road crash.

Dean Chevalier, 20, was more than twice over the legal alcohol limit 
when he lost control of his friend's car, killing himself and 
23-year-old Matthew Prothero.

Both were high on ecstasy and had drunk tequila and lager before the 
accident on a minor road, near Grantham, Lincs, on May 20 last year.

Matthew Prothero's twin-brother Stephen and 20-year-old pal Luke 
Cleary, who were back-seat passengers, survived the accident.

Recording two verdicts of accidental death, Roger Atkinson, HM 
Coroner for West Lincolnshire, criticised claims by a chief constable 
that ecstasy was as dangerous as aspirin.

Richard Brunstrom, chief constable of North Wales Police, said last 
week: "Ecstasy is a remarkably safe substance - it's far safer than aspirin.

"There is a lot of scare-mongering, rumour-mongering around Ecstasy 
in particular. It isn't borne out by the evidence.

"Ecstasy is not a safe substance and I'm not suggesting that it is. 
But it's much less dangerous than for instance, tobacco and alcohol, 
both of which are freely available."

But at the inquest at Grantham Magistrates' Court today, Mr Atkinson 
said: "They were all a bit far gone and their judgment was affected.

"It serves as a lesson and the message is that like in most drink and 
drive cases, it is so tragic for these youngsters.

"But also there are dangers in having ecstasy when driving. I know 
there has been recent publicity in the press but the indication that 
I have had from this case, and other cases, is that it (ecstasy) is a 
dangerous drug and it had a considerable effect in this case.

"Young people who indulge in binge-drinking or drug-taking should be 
warned as to the terrible consequences that can occur."

The court had heard that Matthew and Stephen Prothero, who worked for 
Newark Steel, had been drinking lager while watching the FA Cup Final 
at their home in Philip Road, Newark, on May 19.

They had been joined by apprentice roofer Chevalier, Richard Todd, 
and Luke Cleary. The inquest heard that the amount of ecstasy in 
Chevalier's blood had reached an almost toxic level.

At about 11.30pm, Chevalier, of Uplands Drive, Grantham, the Prothero 
brothers and Mr Cleary took Mr Todd's silver Peugeot car, which 
belonged to his mother, and drove back to Grantham to meet a friend.

Mr Todd refused to drive the car and stayed in Newark as he said he 
had drunk too much but Chevalier took the keys despite being disqualified.

As the four men returned to Newark shortly after 1.30am along Five 
Gates Lane, Londonthorpe, Chevalier lost control of the car on a 
left-hand bend.

It overturned before its roof hit a tree. Chevalier died from a head 
injury while Mr Prothero suffered multiple injuries. Both died at the scene.

Mr Cleary, 20, told the court: "On the corner that we were on, 
there's a down-turn on the other side. The back wheel went down in to 
the dip and sent the car flying.

"He (Chevalier) wasn't driving fast. He just mis-read the corner 
because the corner just sneaks up on you."

But Pc Stewart Cooke, who investigated the accident, said there was a 
road marking warning drivers to slow and that the corner could be 
reasonably taken at the 60mph speed limit.

Chevalier was probably driving at around the speed limit, he said.

After the inquest, Matthew's mother, Lorraine Prothero, said in a 
statement: "I'm sure that the fact that they had been drinking 
influenced them (Matthew and Stephen) getting in that car when they 
wouldn't normally travel with a driver who had drunk so much.

"Things couldn't get any worse but they did when it emerged that 
Matthew had taken the drug ecstasy. We have found this revelation 
particularly difficult to come to terms with.

"I have asked a lot of questions of people who knew Matthew and I 
have been assured that he was not a drug user.

"I think he just got carried along, influenced by the alcohol he had 
drunk and the company he was in on the day.

"At the moment it feels like we will never recover from Matthew's 
death. For 23 years it was always Matthew and Stephen and now one is missing.

"I can't say much more but I would like it if some good could emerge 
from this horrible mess. The only hope of that is if young people 
take notice of what has happened to Matthew and the long-term effect 
that it has had on his family, his girlfriend, his friends and 
everyone that knew him.

"If they do that and refuse to get into a car with a driver who has 
been drinking or who hasn't got a licence, their families and loved 
ones may be spared the suffering and heartbreak that we are enduring."

Chevalier's mother, Julia Chevalier, said in a statement: "Dean could 
be described as a bit of a lad, but he had a heart of gold and would 
do anything for anybody.

"Dean had made a few errors of judgment through his 20 years, none 
more so than on that night in May when he paid the ultimate price 
with his and Matthew's lives." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake