THE family and friends of a troubled father-of-two who died after his car left a road and crashed into woodland, gathered at his inquest.
Worthing-born Ben Finch was behind the wheel of his black BMW M3 on Saturday, November 29, 2014, when his car left Selhurstpark Road, near Chichester.
It’s quite clear by everyone’s attendance that Ben was much loved as a husband, as a father, as a child and with friends.Dr Karen Henderson
The car travelled 55 metres, before crashing into a beech tree which sent it spinning into two other trees. Minutes later the car burst into flames with Mr Finch still inside. He died aged 42.
At the inquest into Mr Finch’s death at Centenary House, in Durrington, assistant coroner for West Sussex Dr Karen Henderson delivered a narrative verdict.
She said Mr Finch died from the consequences of leaving a road and driving into a wood in circumstances where the question of intent is unclear.
Speaking at the inquest, Mr Finch’s wife Victoria, 44, said: “Ben was a very fun person. He was caring, he loved people, he loved talking to people. He loved cars – fast cars or classic cars in particular.”
She added that Mr Finch enjoyed attending Goodwood and relished the release of a monthly car magazine which he would read cover to cover in the bath.
“Ben worked really hard,” she said. “He was rather stressed by his job. I think he found it quite difficult to maintain a balanced home life and work commitments. He did become a bit more isolated. We didn’t speak as much as we maybe should have done together.”
Mrs Finch said she saw Ben on the Tuesday before the accident.
“He came round to the house to look after our son, while I went with our daughter to my parents. He was ok, he seemed fine when we left. When we got back he wasn’t so good he seemed rather upset. That day I wouldn’t have said he was depressed I would have said he was upset and anxious.”
Following her husband’s death, Mrs Finch found a note in her husband’s house written on the back of a bill dated November 11, 2014.
“Ben did change his mind a lot. He was rather indecisive,” said Mrs Finch.
“He certainly never said to me he felt that was something he felt the need to do or even consider.”
Adrian Short, a retired forensic collision investigator with Sussex Police, told the inquest there was no evidence of steering and no specific evidence of braking from Mr Finch as the car left the road.
He said: “It’s a heavy vehicle going over soft ground, therefore it has to be purposeful otherwise it’s going to be slowed down.”
Mr Short described the car as ‘completely and utterly destroyed’ and said it was not an easy job to deal with.
According to Mr Short, the fire could have been caused by an electrical fault, a leak of petrol or diesel onto the hot car or a combination of the two.
Delivering her conclusion, Dr Henderson said: “It’s quite clear by everyone’s attendance that Ben was much loved as a husband, as a father, as a child and with friends.”
She said Mr Finch, an independent financial advisor, had significant personal and professional issues but that she could not and would not give the conclusion that Mr Finch took his own life.
“Given how Ben was found, given the fact he was still wearing a seat belt and all the other circumstantial evidence, I’m also satisfied that Ben was unconscious at the time of the fire and to that extent was unable to save himself or suffer further.”
Dr Henderson said while a report from Mr Finch’s GP showed he had periods of low mood there was no evidence of suicidal ideation or any previous attempts to take his own life.