Singer Black died from head injuries after crash on icy road, inquest hears

The singer-songwriter Colin Vearncombe, who had a huge hit in the 1980s with Wonderful Life, suffered fatal head injuries after losing control of his car on an icy road and crashing into another car near Cork Airport, an inquest today heard.

A jury at Cork City Coroner's Court returned a verdict of accidental death after hearing details of the accident near Cork Airport on January 10 last, writes Eoin English of the Irish Examiner.

Mr Vearncombe, 53, who lived at Caherlusky, Schull, in West Cork, and who recorded as the artist Black, died 16 days later in Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Assistant state pathologist, Dr Margot Bolster, said the cause of death was traumatic brain injury, which was consistent with a road traffic accident.

The inquest heard that Mr Vearncombe was driving his Lexus towards Cork Airport, on the R600 main Cork to Kinsale Road, at around 9am on Sunday, January 10 last when the accident happened.

Colin Vearncombe.

Zbignieu Skorupa, from Bandon, who was driving his grandsons, Damien and Daniel, home from Cork Airport after they landed on a flight from Poland, was driving southbound on the R600, and was about 3.7km from the airport, in an area known as Bowen's Cross, when he entered a sweeping long left bend.

In his deposition, he said he saw a car coming towards them - spinning and rotating on the road.

He said his car hit the rear of the Lexus, and shunted it up and towards a ditch, before it came to rest in a field.

His grandson, Damian Wesolowski, who was sitting in the front seat, said road conditions were wet and slippy, and he saw a car coming sideways at them.

With the help of a translator, he said: "It appeared to be spinning on the road. It all happened very quickly. It spun completely around and our car struck it on the rear."

Mr Skorupa and Damian were uninjured. Daniel suffered a cut to his head.

Two off-duty fire fighters, John Walsh and Anthony McCarthy, were driving in a car behind the Lexus.

In his deposition, Mr Walsh said road conditions were poor and they had had several slips and skids on the road from Kinsale.

He said he heard the sound of a "huge impact, bang, or collision" on the road and they pulled over.

He ran to help Mr Vearncombe, who was found slumped in the front seat, still wearing his seatbelt.

"He was not responding to verbal commands or pain. He was snoring, and bleeding from his nose and mouth," he said.

He took control of Mr Vearncombe's neck and spine, and helped to extract him from the car when fire fighters arrived.

Mr Vearncombe was rushed by ambulance to CUH but never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead in the hospital on January 26.

A garda forensic collision investigation said the damage profile on both vehicles was indicative of each having forward momentum at the time of impact.

The analysis showed that Mr Vearncombe was travelling north towards the airport when he lost control of the vehicle as he exited a long right-hand bend.

This caused to car to rotate clockwise, and travel across the centre line into the path of the Passat which was travelling south in the other carriageway.

Both cars were also found to be roadworthy prior to the accident.

Coroner Philip Comyn extended his sympathies to Mr Vearncombe's family, who did not attend proceedings.

The hit Wonderful Life was released in 1985, charting at No 72. But it was released in 1987 and became a global smash, reaching No 3 in the UK charts, with the Wonderful Life album selling about 1.5 million copies.

However, Mr Vearncombe didn't achieve the same commercial success with his follow-up albums.

He moved to West Cork in 2003 because: "I like my elbow room, and eccentricity is tolerated here."

He is survived by his ex-wife, Camilla Griehsel, a Swedish singer he met in the 1980s, and their sons, Max, Marius and Milan.

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