Royal Navy sailor died in 150mph crash after boasting his car was the fastest

Ben Mitchell, PA

A Royal Navy engineer died after he crashed off a motorway while driving at 150mph in a bid to prove that his modified Vauxhall Astra was faster than his colleague’s car, an inquest has heard.

Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Keith “Paddy” Ross had boasted to his workmate, Harry Malbon, that his car would “take the record” before taking him for a drive from Portsmouth Naval Base on July 15 last year.

Keith Ross death
Chief Petty Officer Keith ‘Paddy’ Ross (Family/MoD/PA)

The father-of-five, of Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, drove at speeds of up to 150mph on the M275 before he lost control and crashed on to a road below causing him to be flung from the vehicle because he was not wearing a seatbelt.

In his evidence read to the Portsmouth inquest, Mr Malbon described how he felt like he was on a roller coaster as 40-year-old CPO Ross accelerated on to the motorway.

Mr Malbon, also a marine engineer, said: “We started having some banter, I was trying to make Paddy fight by saying my car was faster than his, Paddy said ‘I will take that record away from you’ and Paddy suggested we go out in his car.”

He continued: “After clearing the speed camera, Paddy floored it, I would describe this moment like being on a roller coaster, I was speechless at the acceleration.

“I saw an ambulance with its blue lights on and I remember thinking that was for us.”

Mr Malbon said he saw on the car’s speedometer that it was travelling at 150mph before CPO Ross lost control.

He said: “Just one or two seconds later the car began fishtailing, Paddy said ‘Oh f***’ and was trying to straighten the car, he was unable to control it.”

He described how the car crossed two lanes of the motorway before crashing through the barrier and down on to a road below.

The inquest heard that CPO Ross was thrown from the car and died from multiple injuries including a fractured skull.

Coroner Jason Pegg said that CPO Ross had made modifications to the car including removing the catalytic converter which made it “unfit for the public road” and harder to control under heavy acceleration.

Other modifications included installing a de-cat downpipe, normally used for racing cars, as well as lowering the suspension and “tweaking” the engine’s management system.

Recording a verdict of misadventure, Mr Pegg added: “I find as fact the speed and manner was wholly unsuitable for the road conditions and beyond the capability of the car and also the driving capability of Keith Ross.”

Mr Ross’ widow, Sarah, paid tribute to her husband saying: “He was cheeky, funny hard-working, insanely intelligent, great fun to be around, the life and soul of everyone, committed, a great man.”

CPO Ross, originally from Co Down, Northern Ireland, joined the Navy in 1998 as a marine engineer and first served aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious.

He was awarded the Operational Service Medal for serving in Sierra Leone and had most recently served as the deputy marine engineering officer of Crew 7 of the Second Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCM2 Crew 7) based at Portsmouth.

Lieutenant Commander Neil Skinner, commanding officer of MCM2 Crew 7, said: “He was a talented engineer operating at the top of his game.”