A MAN died after a seven pound, six inch piece of metal flew through his windscreen and hit his head an inquest was told in Winchester today (December 5).

The accident happened at the junction of the A334 and B2177 at Shedfield on the afternoon of Friday, May 4.

David Bennett-Rice, 43, a painter and decorator from Brougham Street in Gosport, was driving his blue Rover Metro along the stretch of road towards Wickham when the metal shackle penetrated his windscreen, hit the steering wheel, then him and left the car through the rear window, the inquest heard.

Mr Bennett-Rice was alone in the car when the accident happened, at around 2pm.

Andrew Brennan, from Waterlooville, was driving behind Mr Bennett-Rice when his car veered off the road.

"I had been to a scrap yard in Bishop's Waltham and I was then heading towards Wickham following the chap in front of me. When we reached the junction with Botley Road, my passenger brought to my attention that the car in front had veered across the road.

"At that point a police car pulled out and I thought he had seen what had happened but he hadn't and drove off. I pulled over down the road as there was nowhere near to stop, used my phone to call the emergency services and turned back. There were two other people that had stopped. On reflection I did see a flat bed lorry with machinery on it drive in the other direction at around the same time the incident happened," said Mr Brennan.

The road was closed for eight hours while police investigated the incident.

The inquest, held in Winchester, heard that officers eventually found the shackle that had caused the death of Mr Bennett-Rice at the side of the road.

PC Andrew Johnson, of Hampshire Constabulary Roads Investigation Team, said the piece of metal would have been used on HGVs or on cranes of recovery vehicles.

He said an extensive investigation to find out where the shackle had come from and how it went through the windscreen of Mr Bennett-Rice's car had been carried out, but with no conclusive results.

PC Johnson said that there were two likely scenarios.

One was the shackle had fallen into the road from a vehicle and had been flicked up "tiddlywinks style" by the wheels of an HGV or other large vehicle or it had come off a vehicle while it was travelling at around 40 mph.

PC Johnson said: "There would have been no time to react to the airborne shackle. This is one of the few incidents I have dealt with that is a tragic accident."

Deputy Assistant Coroner for Central Hampshire, Christopher Campbell Wilkinson, said: "Every death is a tragedy, particularly this one was more tragic than most as it was most sudden and unexpected."

He recorded a verdict of accidental death.