A teenage showjumping champion was killed in a horror head-on crash when she braked too sharply on a bend as she drove to college, an inquest heard.
Ella Popely, 18, was behind the wheel when her Fiat collided with an Audi on her way to Burgess Hill Girls’ School in West Sussex in December.
The teenager competed in the Team GB junior riding squad and took part in competitions around the world.
She had been travelling at around 37mph when she braked too forcefully before a bend, causing her to clip the Audi travelling in the opposite direction – which in turn resulted in her car hurtling into the verge and overturning. A police officer arrived and carried out CPR on her, but she could not be saved and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Ella Popely, 18, was behind the wheel when her Fiat collided with an Audi on her way to Burgess Hill Girls’ School in West Sussex in December
As she had a telematic device – a black box installed in the car which records data to help young motorists prove they are good drivers for cheaper insurance – when the crash happened her mother, Lea Popely, was contacted by Hastings Direct to inform her that there had been an incident.
The inquest was told that the driver of the Audi, Terry Collins, got out and went to see if she was okay.
On realising how bad the accident was he phoned the emergency services and, with the help of some nearby walkers, he managed to get Ella out of the car and put her in recovery position.
The coroner, sitting in Woking, Surrey, heard that Mrs Popley rang Chris Matthews, Ella’s boyfriend, to tell him and he immediately went out to see if he could find her.
He had noticed ambulances driving down a nearby road and so went in that direction and eventually came to the scene of the crash where Ella lay dead.
Ella Popely’s mother Lea Popely (pictured) was informed of her daughter’s crash via a telematic black box device
Mr Matthews’ statement was read out as evidence at the hearing and he explained how Ella had stayed with him the night before the tragedy and she had decided to go home instead of to college, the morning after.
Mr Matthews, who lives on a farm near Dorking, Surrey, said: ‘Ella enjoyed visiting the farm and seeing what I did on the farm. She came over to our house on December 5 2016 and she stayed the night. We had a Chinese meal and we watched a movie.
‘Ella woke up at 6.30am to get ready for college but decided not to go. We went back to sleep and then had leftover Chinese for breakfast.’
He explained that she was very happy that morning and they had not had any arguments. She left to go home at around 10am.
At the beginning of the inquest Ella’s mother started to give evidence but found it too difficult and broke down in tears.
The coroners officer read out her statement to the inquest, which explained that Ella had a younger brother, Jack, who was four years younger.
She said: ‘When Ella was 12, her father left us. Over the past six years we carried each other along.
BLACK BOX SCHEME
It allows young driver to prove they are good behind the wheel to earn cheaper insurance and discounts on their renewals.
Drivers can monitor their driving at any time through a mobile app or on their online dashboard.
It can also notify emergency contacts if you have been involved in an accident.
‘Ella had the amazing ability to bounce back, she was always smiling and made friends with everyone.
‘She started riding when she was two and at the age of 12 she was on the children’s GB team. Her riding career took us all over the world.’
She said the last time she saw Ella was in the morning of December 5, when she told her she was going to stay at a friend’s house because she did not think her mum would let her stay round Chris’ house on a weekday.
‘I knew she would be going to Chris’ house and was just happy that she was happy. She went off in Freddy as she had affectionately called her car.’
The coroner said that there was no evidence that either drivers were on their mobile phones or had alcohol or drugs in their blood. Both cars were found to have no defects or faults.
After her death, friends and loved ones paid tributes to Miss Popely, whose father John has also represented Great Britain in equestrian events.
After her death, friends and loved ones (pictured at the inquest today) paid tributes to Miss Popely, whose father John has also represented Great Britain in equestrian events
Boyfriend Chris Matthews wrote on Facebook: ‘You will forever be in my heart – I love you.’
Jack Dalton wrote on Facebook: ‘You could light up the dullest of rooms with just a smile, and will forever be the brightest star in the darkest of nights.
‘Save a place for me up there Ella Popely I’m so grateful to have known you, I will never forget you.’
The teenager competed in the Team GB junior riding squad and took part in competitions around the world
Mark Williams posted: ‘RIP Ella Popely. No words will ever be enough to make life easier for those so close to you.
‘On the occasions I met you you were a joy to be around, so bouncy smiley and full of life. My thoughts love and prayers go out to all of Ella’s friends, family and those close to her at this difficult time.
‘Try to remember all the good times of which there were so many.’
The inquest continues.