DRIVERS battled to save the life of a Swindon cabbie and his passenger after his car drifted into the path of an oncoming lorry, an inquest heard.

After seeing the horrific crash on the A350 in October, they attempted to restart the cab driver’s heart.

Their attempts proved unsuccessful and Cross Street Cars driver Craig Preston, 48, died at the scene near Beanacre, on October 23 last year.

His passenger Averil Macdonald, 79, a mother-of-three who was on her way for a kidney dialysis appointment, died at Southmead Hospital, Bristol five days later.

An inquest yesterday heard Mr Preston lost control of his car after suffering a heart attack. His Ford Mondeo hit the 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.

Driver Ian Harris, who witnessed the crash, said: “I heard an almighty bang.”

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

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

She had seen the crash. “I heard a loud bang. The bus in front moved slightly over in its lane to the left,” she said.

“That was when I saw a dark car.

“It appeared to bounce back and land off the road into some hedgerow.”

Lorry driver Stephen McCracken said in a statement that he was in complete shock following the crash. “I only had time to brake, which I did very quickly.”

The inquest heard Mr Preston, of Stratton, was an experienced driver. CCTV footage analysed by police crash investigator PC Andrew Hill suggested his driving that day was “nothing short of impeccable”. He added: “It is highly probable Mrs Macdonald did not realise anything was untoward until it was too late.”

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

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.

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

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

Mr Preston’s wife of 12 years, Jennifer, said: “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 mother-of-three from Chippenham, who had been diagnosed with end stage renal failure, was described as an inspiration by daughter Catherine: “Even though she was frail in health she was very much a presence in our lives.”