Young rally ace’s death was ‘freak accident’

The father of a rising rally star killed during a race in Italy has said no-one is to blame for his son’s death.

Gareth Roberts was the co-driver of a Peugeot 207 driven by Irish team-mate Craig Breen at the Targa Florio rally in Sicily last June.

The 24-year-old, from Carmarthen, West Wales, died when the vehicle smashed into a crash barrier on a high-speed section of the 18km (11-mile) Cefalu stage. Driver Breen survived.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

An inquest heard yesterday that Santeloc team member Roberts was a star in the making following his meteoric rise in the sport and was an “inspirational person” to be around.

After leaving school at 16, Roberts set up his own electrician business as well as bagging countless motorsport accolades.

His skills as a co-driver did not go unnoticed and saw him turn pro after winning last year’s World Rally Championship Academy event.

Roberts’s proud father Michael, a one-time Welsh rally champion himself, spoke glowingly of his son’s achievements and urged Breen to keep on winning titles.

He said: “You can’t blame the sport and I don’t blame Craig. It was a freak accident.

“Fair play to Craig, he has carried a lot on his shoulders and just won the SWRC World Championship again. I know Gareth would have wanted him to carry on.

“He died doing what he loved doing – he was living out his dreams and accepted the risks that came with it.”

Tragedy struck during stage seven of the race when Breen’s Peugeot 207 began to understeer at a “fast corner” before crashing into a roadside barrier.

An evidence statement from Breen was read to the hearing, in which he said: “I asked Gareth if he was OK, but there was no reply.

“There was blood all over his face and nose.”

But despite the best efforts of medical staff, Roberts was later pronounced dead.

Coroner Mark Layton gave the cause of death as multiple injuries before recording a verdict of accidental death.