Teen deaths in horror Tongham crash with eight passengers prompts airbags warning

Charlie Hopkins -Credit:Surrey Police
Charlie Hopkins -Credit:Surrey Police

The deaths of two teenage boys after a horrific car crash in Surrey have prompted calls for stricter regulations that could improve road safety, a coroner has rules.

Charlie Hopkins, 18, and Billy Robinson, 17 died after a late-night collision when their Volkswagen Polo crashed into a taxi while carrying eight people, on September 26th 2021. There were eight teenage boys in the small hatchback - two in the front, five in the back and one in the boot.

Charlie had just passed his driving two weeks before the crash on Oxenden Road, Tongham. He died at the scene and the front passenger, Billy, died weeks later in hospital. It is understood the driver of the taxi suffered minor injuries but was not carrying any passengers at the time.

A court heard at an inquest at Woking Coroners Court today (April 30) that the severity of the outcome could have been reduced had a number of factors veen difference.

Coroner Anna Crawford told the court that the speeding car and “drunkenness” contributed to their deaths as well as potential distractions from the high number of passengers in “high spirits". The inquest also heard the airbag system on the car had been disabled during a previous ownership and had not deployed at the time of impact.

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Flowers laid out in tribute
Tributes were laid out close to the scene -Credit:Grahame Larter

Had the airbags worked the driver’s injuries would have been “less severe and he would have survived,” the coroner said. The inquest resumed in April after it was suspended to allow police to carry out further enquiries. Representation for Charlie’s family sought a verdict of unlawful killing due to the “non-functioning” airbags but Ms Crawford concluded there was not enough evidence and that “it remains unclear which individual carried out the concealment of the warning light”.

Sam Robinson - Billy's mother told the BBC she thought the crash was “avoidable” and whenever she sees a VW Polo, “I just think, what were they thinking?”

The coroner outlined plans to send reports to the Department for Transport, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, and vehicle servicing trade associations. to highlight a gap in vehicle testing and explore graduated licences for new drivers.

The inquest heard the Polo had been travelling northbound after the teens left a party when it made contact with a curb and veered onto the wrong side of the road. Ms Crawford stated there was little the other driver could have done to avoid the collision.

A spokesperson for Surrey Police commented after the inquest: “This was a tragic incident resulting in the loss of the lives of two teenagers, and our thoughts are with the family and friends of Charlie and Billy on what will have been a very difficult day for them all. The collision will have also had a long-lasting effect on the other passengers who were in the car.”

Days after the collision at the end of September 2021, Surrey Police named 18-year-old Charlie Hopkins from Frimley as the first teenager to have died as a result of the crash. Police sadly later confirmed in December 2021 that 17-year-old Billy Robinson had also died in hospital (December 3 2021) as a result of injuries he sustained.

Charlie’s family paid tribute to him at the time and said: “Charlie was a talented footballer who played for his local team Frimley Green FC U18s. As an only child, he leaves behind his heartbroken parents who ask for privacy at this very difficult time.”

The club also released a statement that read: “It is with great sadness that Frimley Green Football Club confirm the tragic loss of one of our promising young U18 players in a fatal car accident Saturday night. Several other club players were involved in the incident and remain in hospital, some in intensive care.”

Tributes to the teens were also left at the roadside including dozens of flowers, cards, and a football shirt tied around a post. One tribute read: “We love you. You will always be with us brother. Forever in our hearts.”

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