DRIVERS battled to save the life of a taxi driver and his passenger, an inquest heard.

After watching the taxi drift into the path of an oncoming heavy goods lorry on the A350 at Beanacre, they attempted to restart the cab driver’s heart.

Their efforts proved unsuccessful and “impeccable” Cross Street Cars driver Craig Preston, 48, died at the scene of the crash on October 23 last year.

His passenger, 79-year-old Averil June Macdonald, who had been on her way to a kidney dialysis appointment from her home in Chippenham, died at Southmead Hospital, Bristol, five days later.

An inquest yesterday (Wednesday) heard that Mr Preston lost control of his car after suffering a heart attack. His grey Ford Mondeo hit the white HGV at a combined speed of almost 80mph, throwing the smaller car into the air and leaving it almost 10 metres away in a hedgerow.

Bus driver Ian Harris, who witnessed the crash, said: “I heard an almighty bang. I heard the bang a good few seconds before the taxi.”

In a statement read by Assistant Coroner Ian Singleton, Mr Harris said that other drivers had rushed to help, including one woman who had climbed into the back of the taxi in order to perform chest compressions.

Victoria Davis, one of those who stopped to help before paramedics arrived, said that CPR appeared to have had some effect, with Mr Preston’s lips beginning to regain a pink colour.

Describing the crash, she added: “I heard a loud bang. The bus in front moved slightly over in its lane to the left. That was when I saw a dark car [the taxi]. It appeared to bounce back (off the lorry) and land off the road into some hedgerow.”

Lorry driver Stephen McCracken said in a statement: “I only had time to brake, which I did very quickly.” Recalling a “crunch sound” as the taxi hit the front of his vehicle, Mr McCracken added: “I was in complete shock.”

The inquest heard that Mr Preston was an experienced driver, with CCTV footage analysed by police crash investigator PC Andrew Hill suggesting that his driving that day was “nothing short of impeccable”.

PC Hill added: “It is highly probable Mrs Macdonald did not realise anything was untoward until it was too late.”

Medical evidence showed that Mr Preston had suffered a heart attack, caused by underlying heart disease stemming from obesity and diabetes.

Assistant coroner Mr Singleton said: “It left him unable to steer or control the vehicle as it was entering a slight left-hand bend.” Mr Preston was “unable to take any effective action to avoid the collision”, he added.

Describing the case as truly tragic, Mr Singleton concluded that pair had died as a result of a road traffic collision, adding: “I would like to pass on to both families my sincere condolences for your loss.”

Paying tribute to her son after the inquest, mother Yvonne Preston said: “He was a lovely chap. He will be very, very badly missed.”

Mr Preston, who lived in Stratton St Margaret, leaves his wife Jennifer and stepdaughter Katrina. Jennifer, his wife of 12 years, added: “Craig took his driving very seriously. He put his passengers first. If he thought he was unwell he would not have even logged-on that day.

“I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family of Averil Macdonald for their loss in this sad and tragic incident. I would also like to thank Mr McCracken for doing all he could to avoid the collision and to everyone who did what they could to help Craig and Averil.”

Mrs Macdonald, a Chippenham mother-of-three, who had been diagnosed with N-stage renal failure, was described as an inspiration by her daughter Catherine, who said: “Even though she was frail in health she was very much a presence in our lives.”