A DECORATED soldier yesterday spoke of his “nightmare” after suffering a sneezing fit in his car that led to the death of a retired RAF Flight Sergeant and his wife.
Former Gurkha Harising Gurung, 45, was overtaking the couple on the A40 dual carriageway in Monmouthshire when he had a fit which triggered a “painful” stomach cramp, a court heard yesterday.
A Cardiff University common cold expert, Prof Ronald Eccles, concluded he could have lost control of his VW Golf for at least 12 seconds after sneezing around four times.
Gurung, a former Company Sergeant Major with the Gurkha Rifles, inadvertently collided with the Ford Ka which hit a tree and he blacked out, Newport Crown Court heard.
Retired RAF Flt Sgt David Marshall, 79, and his wife Mary, 73, died following the crash on July 20 last year.
Gurung, of Beacons Close, Brecon, denies two counts of causing death by dangerous driving near Clytha and two alternative counts of causing death by careless driving.
He came round in his Golf after a lorry driver tapped him on the shoulder, and he was taken to hospital suffering from post-concussion syndrome, the court heard.
Giving evidence before a jury, the dad-of-two said: “I know I was not in lane two when the sneezing started.
“I vaguely remember that with my right hand, I was holding the steering wheel to control my vehicle, while my left hand was on my stomach trying to control my muscle cramp.
“I have never suffered from that sort of sneezing fit.
“The muscle cramp caused me difficulty breathing and also to my blood circulation. It was very painful.”
Gurung was in the Gurkhas for 22 years and was decorated after serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Bosnia three times, the court heard.
He now lives with his family at the infantry battle school in Brecon where he deals with the base’s security.
His barrister, Malcolm Galloway, asked him how he felt about the couple’s deaths, to which he replied: “I still feel it was a nightmare.
“I am deeply saddened by what happened on that day.
“I pray for them. May they rest in peace. I pray to my God for their peace and I will keep praying for them for the rest of my life.”
Yesterday, Prof Eccles told the court how each sneeze would have lasted around three seconds, including half to one second with his eyes closed.
The director of the common cold centre at Cardiff University described a fit as an involuntary reflex which could be hazardous at critical times.
He told the court: “I think most of the time you have no problem with sneezing but if you’re in a critical situation you can be distracted.
“There can be serious consequences.”