Viola Beach band 'killed when manager drove car through barriers into canal'

Updated: 

Four band members of Viola Beach "living the dream" on tour abroad were killed when the manager drove their car through two crash barriers into a raised bridge before plunging into a canal below, an inquest heard.

Craig Tarry, 32, was behind the wheel of the hired Nissan Qashqai taking the band back to their hotel after playing at a festival for upcoming bands near Stockholm, Sweden, last February.

Viola Beach death

The four-piece Warrington-based band of Kris Leonard, 19, River Reeves, 19, Tomas Lowe, 27, and Jack Dakin, 19, had flown out from Manchester the night before and were "very much in the ascendancy", with foreign tours planned.

But the inquest into their deaths at Cheshire Coroner's Court in Warrington heard all five died at around 2am on February 16 this year following the inexplicable crash.

As the car drove down a motorway, flashing yellow lights and signals warned a bridge ahead over a ship canal was about to be raised, with the middle section of the road lifted horizontally, the inquest heard.

Tarry drove down a verge past stationary queuing traffic and through the first set of barriers around 120 metres from the bridge, the court heard.

The cover of Viola Beach's debut album
The cover of Viola Beach's debut album (Viola Beach/PA)

It then drove in a "controlled manner" at between 70kmh and 90kmh down the centre of the road, with the white lines going under the vehicle.

The court heard it then went through a second set of barriers, 30 metres from the drop into the canal and crashed into the raised section of the bridge before plummeting 25 metres into the water below.

The impact caused "substantial deformation" of the vehicle, the court heard, with scraping and damage to the underside of the bridge section.

A tanker that had requested the bridge to be lifted then passed over the crash spot and "contact" between the tanker and car could not be ruled out.

Technical examination showed there was nothing wrong with the car, or the signalling or barrier system or the procedure for raising the bridge, and the road was wet but not frozen with ice.

The alarm was raised when police were informed of car parts and damaged barriers on the road - then realised a car had gone into the canal.

Post-mortem reports by medics in Sweden, read to the courtroom which was packed with family members of the band, revealed all died from head injuries apart from Lowe, whose cause of death was given as drowning.

There were no drugs or alcohol found in Tarry, and no drugs and only small amounts of alcohol found in the band members.

Viola Beach, who had featured on BBC Introducing, which showcases up-and-coming music artists, described themselves as an "indie pop" band.

Their debut album was released after their deaths and their debut song Swings & Waterslides entered the official singles chart and topped the iTunes chart as tributes poured in from the music world.

After the crash, a statement from the families of the band said: "We are tremendously proud of everything the boys achieved in such a short space of time.

"Craig, Jack, Kris, River and Tom shared a huge passion, talent and dedication to music."