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Crash death rugby player was not wearing seatbelt

A talented international rugby player was more than twice the legal limit and driving without his seatbelt when he drunkenly crashed his car off the road last year, an inquest has heard.

Former Scotland under-20 international and Nottingham Rugby Club player Mitchell Todd was found in his car in a field near Normanton-on-the-Wolds in south Nottinghamshire last August by a member of the public.

Today an inquest into his death heard the 21-year-old's blood-alcohol reading was 172mg of alcohol per 100mls of blood. The legal driving limit is 80mg.

Empty bottles of wine and cans of beer were also found in the vehicle alongside the player, the inquest at Nottingham Town Hall today heard.

A post-mortem examination confirmed Todd, who represented Scotland under 20s in last season's Six Nations and featured in the Junior World Cup, died as a result of a catastrophic brain injury which he could not have survived.

Resuming an inquest into the player's death today, assistant deputy coroner Jane Gillespie heard Todd had drunk excessively after an all-day training event with Nottingham Rugby Club at Trent College in Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire, on August 14 last year before being found in his car in the early hours of the following morning.

Detective constable Mark Henshaw, from Nottinghamshire Police, told the inquest the young player, who was described by his club as an "exceptional talent", drank free wine and beer at a meal at the end of the training event at the college. He then got a taxi into Nottingham city centre where he continued to drink beer and spirits with his team mates until 2am.

The rugby club had warned players not to drive after the event at the college but an intoxicated Mitchell Todd ignored this advice and returned to his car.

The officer told the inquest it was not known why Todd, who lived in Nod Rise, Coventry, had been driving on Cotgrave Road as he knew no one in that area.

Residents in the area described hearing a loud thud around 3.15am on August 15 and seeing a small, dark coloured vehicle travelling at speed to the police.

Todd's mother Delia Todd wiped tears from her eyes as Pc Robert Lloyd, a forensics collision investigator with Nottinghamshire Police, described the moments before the crash that claimed her son's life.

The officer told the hearing the Citroen had been travelling in excess of the 40mph speed limit when Todd lost control of his vehicle on a left hand bend.

He then drove on the wrong side of the road, clipping road signs and trees as he careered across grass verges and kerbs before failing to take a right hand bend and crashing through a fence and hedge into a field, Pc Lloyd told the inquest.

An inquest was opened and adjourned for further investigation by police last summer after the car was found lying on its roof in the field, pointing towards the road.

Pc Lloyd told the hearing the car was found to have no defects but that Todd had not been wearing his seat belt.

"If he had been wearing his seat belt I think there would have been a very great difference to the outcome. He would have been shaken up but not have sustained the serious injuries which he did," the officer said.

He confirmed no other vehicles had been involved in the incident and that Todd had been travelling alone in the car.

"In my opinion the cause of the crash was travelling too fast around a left hand bend while the driver was intoxicated. The state of his injuries were compounded by the lack of a seat belt," Pc Lloyd added.

Summing up the evidence, Miss Gillespie described Todd, who was born in Solihull and had just finished a degree in sports therapy at Coventry University, as a rugby player with a promising career in front of him.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, the coroner said: "This is a sad, unnecessary and preventable waste of a talented young life and I very much hope that valuable lessons are learnt as a result of this tragedy.

"I find that the combination of intoxication, excess speed and Mitchell's failure to wear a seatbelt resulted in this terrible incident and the catastrophic brain injury suffered by Mitchell, which he simply could not survive.

"Taking into account all of the evidence available to me, my verdict is one of accidental death."

She added: "I extend my deepest sympathies to Mitchell's family and friends."

Delia Todd made no comment following the verdict.

Nottingham Rugby chief executive Simon Beatham said: "Everyone at Nottingham Rugby continues to mourn the death of an exceptionally talented young man.

"The loss of Mitchell touched this club profoundly and our hearts, thoughts and sympathies are with all his family and friends."

Todd signed a new contract with the club in May and was expected to make a big impact during the 2012-2013 season, the club added.

He qualified for Scotland through his Edinburgh-born father and had also represented Scottish Exiles from under-17 to under-20 level. He won 10 Scotland under-20 caps and played in the IRB Junior World Championship.

Rob Brierley, the Scottish Rugby Union's performance development manager for Exiles, said: "Mitch was a quiet, sensitive bloke with a real steely determination never more evident than on the rugby pitch.

"He was a real athlete, somebody who was late to the game and was developing all the time."

The Scottish Rugby Union added: "Scottish Rugby extends its sincere condolences to all Mitchell Todd's family and friends."

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